University News

Prospect Park is the Focus of Field Study For Group of University Students

Professor Ronald Verdicchio and students have spent time in the borough conducting oral histories and interviewing local community leaders

From left, Rita VanderStad, Kelly Ginart, Jean Gervais MAT ’13, Amani Kattaya

The Borough of Prospect Park has proved to be a fertile ground for a small group of anthropology/education William Paterson students who are in the process of conducting an ethnographic field study that investigates the degree of cultural change the town has experienced as immigration and migration have become agents of change in the population.

The group is working with Ronald Verdicchio, associate professor of elementary and early childhood education, who chose the student participants, many of whom are members of the Honors College. In the group are Eman Al-Jayeh, Bria Barnes, Abrahim Elgindy, Kelly Ginart, Jean Gervais ’13, Philip Gorokhovsky, Sara Johnson, Amani Kattaya, Megan Perry, Paige Rainville and Rita VanderStad.

“By design, we are all different,” Verdicchio says. “These are all high-performing, and highly motivated students. Three speak Arabic, two are Spanish speakers, and one speaks Russian.”

So far, the researchers have spent time in the borough getting to know its residents, conducting oral histories, and interviewing local community leaders, including Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah ‘98. Six of the group, Ginart, Rainville, Al-Jayeh, Barnes, Kattaya, and Perry, along with Verdicchio, are gathering the information and will co-author a book, Images of America Series, a history of the borough, to be published by Arcadia Publishing in December 2014.

Their next step is to focus on the parents of the borough’s only school, School No. 1, a pre-K to 8th grade institution with approximately 600 students. They will also be interviewing teachers and parents in order to assess the impact of immigration on the area. The goal of the school research is to gain insight into the ways that teachers and parents can work together.

“This experience has taught me to be more observant,” says Megan Perry. “To keep my eyes open and to always ask ‘why?’”