The College Now Academy Brings 18 Students to Bergen for Mentorship, Educational Activities

Eighteen Bergen County third graders have found a new afterschool hangout: Bergen Community College.

The College Now Academy After-School Academy, a program designed by the College’s Center for Suburban Criminal Justice, offers New Milford third graders an opportunity to participate in a supplemental learning program that supplies positive role models (in the form of Bergen students), promotes parental involvement in the education process and gives the preadolescents a taste of college life over a five-year period. The academy opened October 13.

Math, language arts and science learning activities highlight the program, which takes place in the College’s high-technology facilities at its main campus in Paramus. The students will attend the academy twice a week for 30 weeks during each academic year; the curriculum and structure change as students advance through the eighth grade. Parents are expected to track their child’s progress and participate in certain learning activities and conferences. A yearly graduation ceremony will celebrate student accomplishments.

The academy is funded by the Help Yourself Foundation’s Dr. Roger Hull, who wrote the curriculum for the program, and an anonymous benefactor from Bergen County. The Help Yourself Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was established in 2005 and has developed afterschool academies similar to Bergen’s throughout the United States.

Academy organizers hope the program’s mentors, 15 Bergen students pursuing careers in criminal justice and early childhood education, will have a positive impact on the participants. The mentors attend class with the third-graders and help them utilize the College’s recreational and educational facilities.

Bergen student Ed Mendoza, of Ridgefield, assists in the coordination efforts of the weekly activities. “I am eager to give back to my community and I love working with children,” he said. “This is a great way to expose children to a collegiate environment and give them an opportunity to learn after their normal school day is complete.”

In addition to Bergen President Dr. G. Jeremiah Ryan and members of the College’s administration, representatives of the New Milford School District, including Superintendent of Schools Michael Polizzi, Berkley Street School Principal Patricia Aufiero, Board of Education President Dan Conner and board member Gerri Mechler, attended last week’s first day of school.

Academy organizer and Bergen professor Shari Horowitz-Engel was pleased with the first week of classes. “This is a chance for young students to supplement their classroom learning, meet new friends, and establish good role models in their community,” she said. “By providing academic support, the risk of being disenfranchised from the education process is diminished. Encouraging family involvement and promoting mentoring relationships fulfills the need for positive support, encouragement and guidance necessary during this stage of development. I believe the children will be empowered to be part of a college campus community such as Bergen and our college students are empowered to give back to the community.”

Bergen Community College is a public two-year coeducational college, enrolling nearly 17,000 students in Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science degree programs and certificate programs. More than 15,000 students are enrolled in non-credit, professional courses through the Division of Continuing Education, the Institute for Learning in Retirement, the Philip J. Ciarco Jr. Learning Center, located at 355 Main Street, Hackensack, and Bergen at the Meadowlands, located at 1280 Wall Street West, Lyndhurst. Information about the College is available at or by phoning the Welcome Center at (201) 447-7200.

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