The faculty and students of Jose Marti Middle school, named after the Cuban patriot Jose Marti, were joined by various elected officials and dignitaries from the state including Union City Mayor Brian Stack and the Board of Commissioners, Gov. James McGreevey, and Rep. Robert Menendez.
"This school is a result of a true team effort between the school administration, the state and the city of Union City," said Mayor Stack. "This is a prime example of what happens when everyone works together toward a common goal, in this case, the education of the students of Union City."
The festivities began 10 a.m. as prominent officials made their way to the set stage in the new 7,200 square foot gymnasium. Following a remarks by Jose Marti's principal, Geraldine Perez, and a benediction by Father Raul Comesanas, master of ceremonies for the event, Union City Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger opened up the celebration to rousing applause and stamping feet from the students.
"I was able to shake the hand of a sixth grade student and ask what were some of the things you shared with your mom about your new school," said Sanger in his opening remarks. "She said, I told my mom that now I feel safe in school."
After continued applause, Superintendent Sanger expressed how grateful and extremely thankful he is for the opportunity presented to the students of Union City. He also took the time to thank the countless officials who took part including the mayor and Gov. McGreevey, as well as the New Jersey School Construction Corporation who made the developments possible.
"They will build seven additional facilities that will be sparking education in the community," said Sanger. "Dreams are coming true in Union City."
After finishing his own remarks, Sanger introduced guest speakers for the event from Mayor Stack to Gov. McGreevey and Union City native Rep. Robert Menendez, who received standing ovations by the assembly. Also joining them was Gordon A. MacInnes, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.
"This marks a new era in Union City," said Mayor Stack. "A renaissance where education is our top priority."
A few words from McGreevey and Menendez
As Gov. McGreevey stepped up to the podium, the entire assembly rose to its feet in applause.
"Today is a good day for the families and children of Union City," said Gov. McGreevey. "This school represents a new generation of schools being built across New Jersey. We as a society can't just simply worry about the economic problems of the present, but what we can do is prepare children for the future."
He called the children of Jose Marti to action, saying that much has been invested in their future because of their belief in the children of New Jersey. However, now they must take it from there and utilize everything that has been given to them to their fullest potentials.
"You must accept this challenge and be the best students you can be," said Gov. McGreevey. "In this new building, we have kept our faith with you, the children on New Jersey. So seize this challenge, recognize your special gifts, and with hard work and dedication you will become the next generation of American leaders that Union City and the country has ever seen."
Following the governor's closing remarks, he was presented with a plaque for his outstanding service and dedication to the city of Union City, which was presented to him by Mayor Stack and town officials. Afterwards, another rousing applause greeted Rep. Robert Menendez as he took his turn to speak.
"I am extremely proud to be here today," Menendez said. "This is a historic occasion. This is the first school we've built in three generations."
Rep. Menendez is familiar face in Union City having been a product of the school system, as well as serving on the Board of Education and as mayor.
"It really is a gratification of a lot of work and a lot of people over a period of time," said Menendez, who also singled out Mayor Stack for the accomplishments made in the district with construction and school test scores. He also encouraged the students to work hard, and that they will be a generation of great leaders, possibly even the first Hispanic American president of the United States.
After a few more words by Gordon A. Mac Innes and Jack Spencer, CEO of the SCC, Rafael Pineda, acclaimed anchor for Univision Ch. 41, gave the closing remarks of the ceremony.
"This is the first school in the state of New Jersey to carry the name Jose Marti, and we can't forget that this is not only for the Cuban community," said Pineda. "Jose Marti Middle School exists today for all the Latin American people. The dreams of yesterday are the realities of today. A new chapter has been written in the history of this state. Now you [the students] will write the rest of the story. I am proud that the name Jose Marti will forever be on the walls of this school. Take care of this place. It's your future."
The ceremony ended with the official ribbon-cutting at the main entrance of Jose Marti Middle School, televised to the assembly in the gymnasium.