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Changing the World, One Child at a Time;
Judith (Stevenson) Albornoz, Ed.D. ’66
Poor urban children often live amidst crime and violence with little means or opportunity to move to a more stable life and a successful future.
But people like Judith Albornoz, Ed.D. ’66 are working to improve urban life and education for women and children in New Jersey.
“Success in life is built on the foundation of a solid education,” Albornoz says. “Without that foundation, urban children are lost.”
From 1995 to 1998 she served as chairperson of the Hudson County Commission on Human Relations. The Commission was formed in every county in New Jersey under the directive of the Attorney General’s Office. Today, Albornoz is director of Compliance, Reporting & Divisional Operations, Division of Pupil Personnel Services, Paterson Public Schools. Her work within the Paterson School District is extensive and inspiring.
In 2000 she introduced a program called Overcoming Obstacles to the district and began implementing it in a number of schools. Overcoming Obstacles is aimed at easing the transition into high school. She also organized and chaired the Dropout Prevention Task Force in 2002, with the goal of decreasing the dropout rate. The New Jersey Department of Education standard for the dropout rate of students 16 years or older cannot exceed 10 percent. In 1998, Paterson had an 18.2 percent dropout rate. But by 2005, the district had reduced its dropout rate to 7.6 percent.
Complementing her knowledge and experience are Albornoz’s dedication, imagination and passion for creating viable solutions to the problems urban youth face. “Education, now a multi-billion-dollar industry, defines its product as a test score. Educators oftentimes resemble assembly line workers, and children are containers to be filled rapidly, uniformly and anonymously,” Albornoz says. “But education, the way we sense it, the way we imagine it, the way we dream of it when we recover the energy and the drive, does not see or envision empty vessels to be filled and later measured.”
Witnessing the despair, poverty and violence that affect the lives of urban youth is saddening, she admits, but she believes that “public education can function and deliver what is needed to an urban environment if we use accountability and imagination.”
Dedicated volunteers who care can also help women and children who have been lost in the system. More than 25 years ago, Albornoz and a group of volunteers worked with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace to help homeless and economically disadvantaged women and children break the cycle of poverty and begin a life of self-sufficiency. This group became the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for Kenmare High School. The school, which started with seven students in the basement of a church, is now a nationally accredited alternative high school that offers education as well as practical training in job and life skills to women who have dropped out of the public system.
The time, energy and love that Albornoz has put into improving the lives of urban children and women has not gone unrecognized: In 2006 she was honored with the Achievement in Education Award, presented by the Community for Children Foundation in New York City.
– Kristen M. Adams ’07