When Jerome Wright tried to teach a group of 150 youngsters how to sing this summer, he was ready to give up.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I just wanna go home,'” the 17-year-old Snyder High School student told Gov. Christine Todd Whitman Tuesday.
But Wright, a would-be gospel singer and a part of the school’s “15 Together” program, said teaching the children at a summer camp was one of the great experiences of his life.
Other students told Gov. Whitman about the dropout prevention program in a round-table discussion. A new health service program at Snyder was announced as well.
“You have to set a good example,” said Janardan Link, 15, a Snyder student who worked with Wright at the camp. “The kids look up to you.”
The 15 Together program identifies and helps students having a tough time adjusting to their first few years of high school. It was started two years ago on the initiative of former Superintendent Richard A. DiPatri, current Superintendent Charles Epps, superintendent secretary Joanne Kenny and the city.
“Some students have difficulty fitting in to high school,” said Arthur Williams, the coordinator of the 600-student city-wide program, last week. “It’s a bridge to nurture them in the first two years.” The students are provided mentors, take classes in conflict resolution and talk about high school problems. Many of the students who finish the program go on to become mentors for future students.
They also go out on trips and work during the summer at camps and offices, for which they receive a paycheck. Last year, students traveled to Newark, where they heard three black doctors talk about growing up in a ghetto.
Whitman was convinced.
“All of these programs make things happen because of one secret ingredient: communication,” she said. “They help young people communicate with caring adults. They give young people an opportunity to talk with adults in a safe setting, while they encourage them to take responsibility for their own lives.”
The other part of the day was devoted to discussing Jersey City Medical Center’s $250,000 grant from the state Health Department to provide a clinical, health-related, job readiness, learning support and recreational service at Snyder.
The new health site will be managed by the school district and the Jersey City Medical Center. Staff will be paid and will keep flexible hours.