Trenton’s bright and shiny beacon of hope, the new $155 million Trenton Central High School campus was beautifully designed with thoughtful elements from the school’s historic past. The massive hallways, open spaces and technological advancements dropped many jaws during a tour of the facility on Thursday, September 19. Yet, the evening’s takeaway was a narrative far deeper and more inspiring. Hyper-focused on meeting the needs of more than 1,800 students, the facility and curriculum feels like a college campus; promising to prepare young Trentonians for a world of glistering opportunities.
As a group joined by Mayor Reed Gusciora including business, civic, education, and religious leaders, strolled the immaculate facility, Trenton Central High School Principal Hope Grant chronicled an inspiring story of opportunity, structure and progress, that penetrates beyond the brick-and-mortar and is now creating a student mindset of success.
“What we need, with every partnership that we have, is that connection with young people,” said Grant after an eye-opening story about students who lack basic necessities like being hugged and feeling loved. “It’s more than just a bright new building,” added Grant. “In the end, if there is not someone cheering for our students, this whole experience is minimized.”
Grant explained that by the end of the construction process, every single company that had a major contract with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority hired Trenton Central High School students to provide services to enhance the facility. As an example, the company that was responsible for the computers, hired 24 seniors last June at industry rate and trained them to image all of the laptops in every classroom.
Other students were hired to engage in furniture staging and even construction services to help make the facility shine. “The class of 2019, who never got a chance to step foot in the new building, now have their imprints on this building,” said Grant.
Organized into five diverse career-focused small learning communities known as Career Academies, Trenton Central High School guides students to select the Career Academy that best aligns their interests to one of the College and Career program offerings within each Academy. These “schools-within-a-school” provide the opportunity for large high schools to create smaller educational communities that offer a more personalized learning environment to better meet the needs of students.
The school’s five career academies include Communications, Health Professions, Restaurant, Entrepreneurship and Tourism, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Visual and Performing Arts.
Often asked how the students are taking all of this in, Grant says “It is something that I can’t even put into words. How they are carrying themselves, how they are responding, and how they are challenging me, is wonderful and speaks to how our students are able to advocate.”
“I can only imagine the thrill and excitement students have walking into this new state-of-the-art facility as they navigate a new world of opportunities,” said Greater Trenton CEO George Sowa. “The grand facility – but more importantly, the programs and initiatives – promise to serve Trenton youth well for generations to come.”
John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM, Founder, President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, who graduated from Trenton Central High School in 1977, described the new building as “transformational” as he reminisced walking through the halls of the former school.
“In 1962, when I graduated from Trenton Central High School, we were one of the premier high schools in the Country,” said James White III, Student Success Coach and Radio Host at Mercer County Community College. “This is a fantastic facility hands down … our students have everything they need, now it’s up to them.”