In 2014, when Professor Ronald Verdicchio and six honors students in his anthropology class published the 128-page book Prospect Park, by Arcadia Publishing, they unanimously decided that any royalties and profits would be donated to a scholarship fund at William Paterson University. With some help from alumni and friends, the fund is now an endowed scholarship designated for a student from Prospect Park.
The six students, now alumni, who co-authored the book are: Eman Al-Jayeh ‘15, MS ’17, Bria Barnes ‘15, Kelly Ginart ‘16, Amani Kattaya ‘16, Megan Perry ‘14, and Paige Rainville ‘15. “All of them have gone on to bigger and better things, including graduate school and teaching,” says Verdicchio, a 1965 alumnus, and associate professor of elementary and early childhood education.
“I always wanted to do a community study with students,” says Verdicchio. Prospect Park had an interesting demographic, he says, because it was a Dutch community that transformed into a community that is now essentially Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Latino, and African American. Approximately a dozen students were involved in the project over a two-year period, including many as researchers who helped out along the way. The book showcases the rich cultural, educational, and economic heritage of the northern New Jersey town and includes numerous historical photographs compiled with the help of local residents and community organizations.
The authors themselves are a diverse group; three speak Arabic, two are Spanish speaking, and one speaks Russian. The group continues to stay in touch. “I had the honor of going to Eman’s wedding and Paige’s wedding,” says Verdicchio. “We’re close. And it’s a two-way street. If I have a question about Islam, I go to Eman. She visits my classes and talks about Islam and how she practices it. We have all learned from each other and stay in contact.”
“The joyful part of this is that I’m at least two generations removed from the authors and field researchers and we had this wonderful experience together, researching, writing and doing all the things that we needed to do, including sweating a lot to put this publication together,” says Verdicchio. “We all felt so fortunate to have had this experience and we wanted to share it in a small way through a scholarship.”
Prospect Park, part of Arcadia’s Image of America Series, is available on Amazon.com. All royalties and net proceeds from book sales will be donated to the William Paterson University Foundation for The Ronald R. Verdicchio & Authors Scholarship. Donors may also contribute directly to the scholarship.
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