30045_1322850825703_2228833_nOn September 27, 2014, PEF held a Youth Leadership Retreat titled “Pathways to College: Stay the Course”. All the presentations were planned and led by the youth who participate in PEF’s programs. The first presentation was done by E3 University whereby they shared what activities they did at the summer program. The youth explained what the program is about, what it does, and what schools are involved. They then proceeded to show a wonderful video about what the students learned and did with the teachers and interns. The participants of the program learned about the history of Paterson. It was truly wonderful, especially since the students discovered a love of Paterson that they did not know they had prior to joining this program.

The second group to present was MOTH, Matter Observed Through Hombres. The young men demonstrated how to put together a telescope, explained what the different pieces were, what they were used for, and what one could see with it.  Afterwards, they shared their experiences of attending a college lecture and stargazing event at William Paterson University. It was great to see how excited the young men were about space and all it holds.

The third presentation was done by GUFE, Girls United For the Earth. The young women spoke about their experiences and how GUFE helped shape them into the young women they are now.  They spoke about the opportunities it gave them to be able to travel and learn about the Earth and how to better protect it. The young women showed a photo video of when they visited Costa Rica in April 2013. After the video, there were so many questions for the young women on what they saw, what they did, what they did to prepare for the trip, etc.  But the main question asked was, “How can I go?!”

I asked members of the College Track program to speak about their experiences of guiding their peers through the college process.  These young individuals did a wonderful job of explaining what they learned, their college visitation trips, and the workshops they gave to their English classes. It was great to see the effect the program had on them and also to know they were now better equipped to help other students who do not have the knowledge of where to find guidance for college preparation.

To wrap up the retreat, we invited the Honorable Karen Brown to deliver a speech.  Karen Brown is Newark’s Corporation Counsel and was the Acting Mayor of Newark for a short while (while the mayor was out of town).  Karen Brown is a Paterson native and spoke on how she made it by “Staying the course”. It was an inspirational and moving speech, and I truly believe it spoke to many youth that were present.

The retreat turned out to be a great session of cross learning and was a real eye opener to all the possibilities out there.  I think it was great to see the students taking on a leadership role by presenting- after all, they are our future leaders!