Patterson-School 21 has set up a game room where students can spend their lunch time as a reward for progress in academics, behavior or attendance.
Officially known as the SWAG (Students with Academic Goals) room, this room has an arcade basketball hoop, an air hockey table, a PlayStation 5 and an old-fashioned Pac-Machine.
The program was launched in cooperation with Zone6ix, which was co-founded by Justin Wimberly, the son of Congressman Benjie Wimberly, who is the district entertainment director.
Zone6ix, a limited liability company that started business in 2019, describes itself as a "media platform for youth and high school athletes." According to its website, the company also organizes "show" events in which high school football players pay entrance fees ranging from $90 to $200 to help them attract the attention of college recruiters.
Principal JoAnne Riviello said that when one of her staff contacted the young Wembley for some help, the school 21 already had a student incentive program. Wimberly is the project coordinator of the New Jersey State Sports and Expo Administration. He said he received a private donation for the game now equipped with the SWAG room.
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Wembley attended Patterson Elementary School before graduating from Hackensack High School, and his father was his football coach. The young Wembley said he was very happy to help Patterson's young people.
"We usually focus on athletes, but before they become athletes, they are students," he said.
Paterson Schools Supervisor Eileen Shafer said that it is important for the program to encourage students to achieve their goals, and she praised Wimberly.
“He and his team at Zone6ix created a fun and safe place that our students will enjoy in the area for free,” Shafer said.
Officials said that staff who are already on duty for lunch will monitor the SWAG room. Officials said that students will be able to play these games for free, and Zone6ix will not profit from the program.
Joe Malinconico is the editor of Paterson Press.