Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell made an appearance at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey on Thursday, Feb. 2 to highlight the investment of $1 million in grant money to the school.
The grant comes from a program that Koppell started during his time in Arizona. According to an article done by NJ.com, One Square Mile is the initiative developed by Koppell while he was Dean of Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University and the grant comes from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. During that time, Koppell addressed poverty in the Maryvale community around the Phoenix area.
The article describes how Paterson’s poverty rate is more than twice the average rate in New Jersey and 25% of its neighborhood is living below the poverty line.
It also explains how Koppell went to Paterson with a vision: to make Eastside High School a community hub with free meals, mental health counseling and healthcare opportunities for its families and 2,000 students in attendance.
University spokesperson, Andrew Mees, explains the the reasoning behind the grant and foundation.
“The grant was awarded to the University by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for the specific use of funding the One Square Mile initiative,”Mees said. “This was based on a proposal submitted by the University to the Foundation. So, the University is not allowed to use the support for anything else. Also, Eastside High School is not the only initiative that will fall under One Square Mile. It is simply the first initiative – the full $1 million will not go to the school.”
Students on campus gave their opinions on the financial move by Koppell. Liam Maloy, a junior information technology major, said it would be beneficial for the community.
“I think it’s a great way to help low-income students and build the proper infrastructure in an area such as Paterson,” Maloy said.
Suhani Patel, a junior biology and medical humanities major, shared how it would be a benefit to students looking to invest in higher education.
“I think it’s a very interesting, understandable and smart decision to reinvest into the community especially because it’s a good opportunity for all those students to come to university if they have better resources and are being more invested into,” Patel said. “With the education system in America, the reason why kids drop out of school so early or they decide not to go to college is from the education system with the lack of [resources], and it can be especially hard for students of low-income communities.”
Patel also pointed out how while it may be a good decision for the Paterson community, there still could be better investments made on Montclair State’s campus. [Although this particular grant was given by the foundation to invest specifically into the One Square Mile.]
“For instance, safety, whether it’s more cameras around The Village or better shuttle services so students aren’t late to classes,” Patel said. “Also, with Science Hall, there aren’t a lot of resources in it and it’s a tiny building and as a STEM major, I think a lot of aspects are very outdated and it draws students away from wanting to do research or spend time there compared to a building like the [Feliciano School of Business].”
Ronnie Murphy, a junior filmmaking major, echoed Patel’s words regarding a good investment in the community.
“I think it’s a very generous donation to the school,” Murphy said. “Especially that is helping those kids in need that probably wouldn’t have those facilities previously and for future generations to be able to flourish in that community.”
While some students of Montclair State are skeptical of the decisions being made by the university, Murphy circled back to the idea of the investment being a good thing for Paterson, but work still needs to be done across campus.
“I know personally that a lot of people on campus [that] don’t believe the money is going in the right place,” Murphy said. “I feel this is one of those decisions where it is going in the right place to help people out. I do wish though they would make smarter decisions for campus if they are going to have this kind of money to fund [things] such as Eastside High School.”