NJ SEEDS Program Nurtures College Dreams for Inner-City Students

Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

Earning a high school diploma is a defining moment in a student’s life. It’s especially sweet for the high school graduates from Trenton and Orange who participated in a three-year college preparatory program with a non-profit called New Jersey SEEDS.

“As a scholar who believes that life can be changed through education, five words stick out to me: Scholars, Educators, Excellence, Dedication and Success — SEEDS,” said Valedictorian Eddy Torres.

New Jersey SEEDS provides rigorous academic and cultural opportunities for inner-city youth. The goal is to help them get into college. Mentors help students with the application process and securing financial aid. Among the success stories is 17-year old Samuel Akande.

This is a dream come true for Akande, a Nigerian-born Orange High School student, who admits he initially wasn’t thrilled about attending Saturday classes and summer programs with New Jersey SEEDS. His parents pushed him to do it, and Samuel is grateful because he says it’s an opportunity many underprivileged kids in his neighborhood don’t get.

“Living in an inner city community, you don’t really get much of the the happiness and the joy, and the dreams of the future,” said Akande. ‘Honestly, we live for now and we don’t think of the of the future and that’s something NJ SEEDS was able to instill in me.”

These graduates are joining a long list of elite alumni. Since its inception in 1992, more than 1700 students have graduated from SEEDS programs.

“I have four young people who are working at Goldman Sachs and another two who are working at Barclays. We have students who are teaching. I have a young woman who is a playwright who’s been produced on Broadway,” said NJ SEEDS President Ronni Denes. “It’s amazing what our kids achieve when they have that opportunity.”

New Jersey SEEDS has an impressive track record. Officials say 99 percent of the graduates from its college prep program go to college, and more than 90 percent of them get a college degree. As far as Akande is concerned, this journey is all part of a plan to fulfill his career goal.

“Honestly, I have big aspirations,” shared Akande. “I want to become a senator or governor one day. It’s my true dream.”

Helping kids fulfill these dreams is what New Jersey SEEDS is all about.