U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg stopped by Montclair High School yesterday to meet fellow recipients of the Montclair Democratic County Committee’s annual community service awards. In addition to the senator — who is being honored for his lifetime of service — awards will go to: Phil Easton, Lead Teacher, Center for Social Justice at Montclair High School; Annya Martin and Hannah Rowe, both MHS seniors; Lonnie Brandon, Chairman, Montclair African American Heritage Committee; and Ted Upshaw (posthumously). Awards will be given at a ceremony on Thursday, October 28 at Valley Regency in Clifton.

Attendees to yesterday’s intimate gathering had a chance to chat and share stories of community service activities. Senator Lautenberg asked the students to highlight the “most important” aspects of their work. For Anya Leigh Martin (on left, above), it’s her involvement with the arthritis foundation, while her classmate Hannah Rowe (next from left) felt strongly about her work with Garden State Equality.

Both young women are in the high school’s Center for Social Justice program, and won the scholarship essay contest. According to Easton — one of the program’s founders (in photo above next to Senator Lautenberg) — the curriculum involves looking at real world problems, both in the classroom and beyond. The program, which started with a grant from the federal government, is now a stand-alone program. Easton said that graduates are now working all over the world engaged in many types of social action.

For Lonnie Brandon (show here next to Lautenberg) and his coworker Jim Eason, who run the “Rites of Passage” program at MHS, helping youth to develop into strong and acvtive citizens is at the heart of their work with the Montclair African American Heritage Committee. “It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world to see the kids from our program — now in its 12th year — grow up and have families of their own,” Eason said with much emotion. “This program provides them with direction. A few years back we had 100% of our participants go on to college. That’s a really good feeling, and it makes me really proud.”

Tanya L. Poteat, Vice-Chair of the Montclair Democratic County Committee noted that Brandon is being honored for the longevity of his commitment to the people of Montclair. “He’s had a tremendous impact on the community through social service programs and initiatives,” she said. Poteat added that the annual Montclair African American Heritage Festival and Parade, now in its 22nd year, “is a real community event and has done a lot to bring people together.”

Also at the informal gathering was Brendan W. Gill, Chairman of the MDCC (shown at center of the top photo), as well as other representatives from the organization, MHS Principal James Earle, and pop-in visits from various teachers. It was a time for chatting, and sharing stories of community service.

Rowe’s mention of Garden State Equality segued into the senator talking about a bill he is working on that will “require any college or university receiving federal dollars to educate its students about tolerance, so that all community members can be free from discrimination.”

The senator noted that he has “always tried to do right by people,” and shared some of his memories of growing up poor in Passaic, Belleville and Nutley before moving to South Mountain Avenue in Montclair in his adult years. The senator credited his parents for teaching him to be an involved community member, saying “they left values, not valuables, and taught me to be concerned about people less well off than myself.”

The senator’s lighter side came out, while chatting with the high school girls. “Have you ever heard of Lady Gaga?” he asked. With big smiles, and perhaps a little surprise, Martin and Rowe listened as the 85 year old law maker shared stories about his favorite performer, and the recent concerts that he’s been to.

According to Gill, the senator saw her once and liked her so much that they held a fundraising event at one of her concerts for his 85th birthday.

You can meet the honorees, and maybe hear more of the senator’s wonderful stories of living in what we now call Baristaville at the awards dinner. For more information, call 201-704-1510 or 973-650-1317.
Thursday, October 28, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Valley Regency, 112 Valley Road, Clifton
Donations are $100.

17 replies on “Senator Lautenberg and Residents to be Honored by Montclair Democrats”

  1. One thing about the Senator that irks me is how he likes seeing his name on buildings – like the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station.

  2. Retire already Lousenberg…another mega-millionaire that was bored and decided to buy a senate seat.

  3. I have to wonder that why in the time of a budget crisis and MHS failure to meet standars in consecutive years that we have a “Center for Social Justice”?

  4. I’d say the the highest form of social justice would be NOT bankrupting the nation at the behest of unions and special interests. So that in a helathy economy even the poor could find work.

    Who’s studying that?

  5. Perk up Kevin57! MHS website says a grant from the US Dept of Ed funds this Center and I’m certain some kids benefit, just like a handful of students benefit from playing sports, from the robotics club, from any specific activity that only a select number of kids is interested in or is good at. It is simply another offering and the school system would be open to criticism if they did not seek out funding for these extras, esp in a time of tight money.

    I suppose you could argue against the US Dept of Ed’s funding priorities but that is another matter.

    I think it confuses the situation to conflate the mere existence of a club-type activity with tight finances and sub-par test performance.

  6. Townie,I am not sure that the phrase “With the support of” equals funding for for the program. Also, these “smaller learning communities” appear to be far more formal than an after school robotics club.

    Does anyone here have a child enrolled in this program? Can you offer some information about the curriculum?

  7. Kevin57, Thank you for asking for someone with a child enrolled in the CSJ program to provide some information. I am so tired or reading here and on the Watercooler comments and criticisms about our school system by people who do not have anyone enrolled in the system or by parents who are so uninvolved that they have no idea about all the offerings and opportunities for the kids. It especially amuses me when parents of kindergartners criticize the system. By the time your kid is in middle school you will be laughing at yourself for what you thought was so important for the school to provide when they were in kindergarten. My child at the HS is part of CGI. CGI is a wonderful small learning community that teaches English and History in an amazing way. The elective that goes with it is also fascinating. That’s all I will say. Get the specifics from the kids involved. They are great speakers and debaters. I can’t speak of CSJ but I am sure some student can provide information.

  8. How dare any taxpayers without children in the schools criticize anything the schools are funding. Who do these people think they are?

  9. Here’s the course description from the high school website and student handbook:
    Course Description: American Social Justice (ASJ) is a two-year English and History interdisciplinary program with a strong emphasis on the impact that social movements have had on the development of history, humanities and the arts. ASJ is based upon the Small Learning Community (SLC) model where students build close working relationships with staff and fellow students. Students will actively engage in curriculum that focuses on the themes of social justice and use their knowledge to promote issues of social activism within their own community. Students will receive individualized student mentoring, develop and implement community service programs and fundraisers, conduct extensive research and develop study, time-management and test taking (i.e. S.A.T.) skills. ASJ meets for three periods a day. English and History classes are conducted in two-period block on alternating days with the additional period used for program planning- community service, mentoring, study skills. Students receive a total of 15 credits a year: 5 English, 5 for History and 5 (pass/fail credits) for the program planning class.

  10. ROC, all I am saying is that when people talk about the actual programs the schools offer they should have information and facts before they criticize instead of the general criticisms I see here all the time. I think that would provide a lot more information to people who are not aware and it would help in changing things that need to be changed. I am not talking about the budget and the BOE I am talking about using what’s good about the programs we have and fixing what isn’t. Mr. Earle has made some very simple but logical changes since he has been here.

  11. You’re such a reactionary, ROC. I think hereswhatithink was making the very logical point that perhaps some people who exhibit knee-jerk reactions should actually take some time to gather information about what has their panties in a knot.

    Of course, as soon as some people see the word “social” in a course description, especially if it’s coupled with “justice,” their blood pressure surely rises. So, yeah, knee-jerk away. People are especially good at it these days.

  12. we should not be spending a cent on “social justice” programs in the schools. they’re talking about ending garbage service and requiring citizens to hire their own garbage collection, for goodness’ sake.

    Any high schoolers interested in social justice could perhaps work the garbage detail in a poor neighborhood.

  13. It’s not extra money. It’s their english and history classes that they would be taking anyway. Like I said get the facts before you comment.

  14. started with a federal grant and now is a “stand alone program”. why was federal money needed if it’s just their normal English instruction?

    Man, a sucker is born everyday.

  15. Clearly this is not a traditional program. My bias my be showing here but I would like to see the justification for pass/fail grading. I’d also be curious to see the types of colleges/universities which accepted these students.

  16. Your bias is showing. Based on my child’s friends who are in CJS the learning community has a very diverse make-up. I will agree that it is disconcerting that the elective is pass/fail. I thought it would receive a grade as the CGI elective does. If this is because the CSJ elective has too much fluff this should be brought up with Mr. Earle. Mr. Earle is open to change and to making things consistent throughout the high school. If something is working well in one area he will try to implement these changes in other areas. Like I said to change things start with him and the facts, not the BOE. In CGI mentoring and volunteering are done during lunch or after school so that is not part of the elective class. In CGI the elective runs like Congress three days a week and has academic classes on the other two days.

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