Katie Colaneri, nj.com, August 27, 2010:
Hoboken made state history today as the site of New Jersey’s first Spanish-English charter school.
Hoboken Dual Language Schoolofficially opened its doors to the community in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, bringing to fruition the hopes of the school’s co-founders Jennifer Hindman Sargent and Camille Korschun Bustillo.
“It’s a very emotional day for us and a thrilling one,” Sargent told the crowd of children, parents, teachers and city officials that gathered in front of the Boys and Girls Club of Hoboken on Jefferson Street where the school will make its home.
Among those present for the ribbon-cutting were Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and 4th Ward Councilman Michael Lenz. Several members of HoLa’s inaugural class sat on the steps of the Club, wearing white t-shirts embossed with their new school’s logo.
Also present for the ceremony was Ruban Ramos who was not there as a state assemblyman, but as the parent of one of HoLa’s 132 K-through-second grade students.
“We all know we live in a world without borders,” he said moments before he helped snip the ribbon. “And today, us parents are taking a leap of faith and saying, ‘We want our children to understand another language because we want to give them the tools to be successful in this world.”
On a political note, Ramos thanked former governor Jon Corzine who approved HoLa’s charter last September.
“We saw it as a really unique educational opportunity,” said Tom Azzolini whose 8-year-old daughter Montana will start second grade at HoLa on September 7th. “We feel it’s like a value-added thing that she’s going to get a good education and now she’s being given this other tool which in and of itself is great.”
“I think it’s going to be a pretty coveted school to get into in Hoboken, granted that educational opportunities are not as good as they could be… so it offers another alternative.”
Students were admitted based on a lottery conducted in January of this year. Each year, the school will add a grade level until it is a full-fledged K-5 elementary school.
“The school features an emphasis on the arts, an experimental approach, and a multicultural perspective. Studies show that students in dual language programs tend to outperform their monolingual peers academically,” stated a recent press release from the school.
HoLa will feature enrichment and after-school programs designed to compliment their daily bilingual education which school director Maria Acosta said will encourage multicultural appreciation and give the students and edge in the future job market.
“The benefits are endless of being bilingual, biliterate,” she said.
This was the appeal for one Hoboken mother whose son will enter one of HoLa’s two Kindergarten classes.
“Cross-cultural communication, even if he’s dealing with people from a non-Spanish speaking country, helps him be more sensitive to all cultures even if his background is just in Spanish,” she said.
Sargent and Bustillo originally proposed HoLa as a program for the Hoboken public schools which was met with strong resistance by some parents who felt funding would be better used elsewhere in the school system. This, Bustillo said, was what ultimately pushed them to apply for a charter.