At This New Jersey High School, Every Single Graduate is Headed to College–With 35% First-Gens

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This past May, Dr. Namik Sercan, Chief Education Officer of Central Jersey College Prep Charter School (CJCS), told NJ Education Report, “no matter the color of their skin, how much money their parents have, or whether their parents went to college, if provided with opportunities, kids will succeed.”

Sercan has been proven prescient. Today CJCS, rated the top-ranked public charter high school in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report, will celebrate its newest graduates. Thirty-five percent of the graduating class will become the first in their family to attend college—“first-gens,” as they’re commonly known. 

In addition, CJCS has announced that 100% of this year’s seniors are graduating high school and 100% have been accepted to colleges. That’s a record that’s held since 2011.  Graduates will be attending Harvard, West Point, honors programs around the country, and schools throughout New Jersey, including Rutgers, Rider, Kean, and Montclair State. 

The commencement speaker at today’s graduation ceremony is Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Pastor Emeritus at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens and former secretary of State of New Jersey.

“Dr. Soaries is one of the country’s leading advocates for children, and we share a special pride that he will be in attendance as 35% of our graduating class will become the first in their family to attend college,” said Sercam.  “While his leadership, passion, and activism stretch throughout so many areas of New Jersey, his unique commitment and understanding, specifically of Central Jersey, has directly impacted many of our students and our community of Somerset.  His attendance makes this a very special event.  We are grateful for his support and look forward to celebrating his service and the excellent work of our graduates this year.”

CJCS has won many honors.  U.S. News and World Report recently announced in its annual nationwide ranking of high schools that CJCP ranks as the top public charter high school in the State of New Jersey and also ranked the school #32 among all 406 high schools ranked in New Jersey and #707 out of nearly 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The U.S. Department of Education previously named CJCP a “National Blue-Ribbon School,” the highest possible designation granted to a K-12 school and has also been awarded by the New Jersey Department of Education with a Tier 1 designation, the highest possible ranking for a public charter school in the State.  

In fact, the school is so popular among Central Jersey families of color— 89% of students are Black, Brown, or Asian— that 1,400 students applied for 150 seats in the most recent lottery, which is weighted to  provide an advantage for low-income and homeless students.

Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped the Murphy Administration from denying a long-planned expansion to New Brunswick, where currently fewer than 1 in 2 high school graduates attend college. As previously reported, Randal Pinkett, in reference to Franklin Township’s long opposition to CJCS (where the main campus is located), says challenging expansion plans “marginalizes the voices of Black and brown families, a behavior he calls “Trumpian.”

No matter. These young people are flying high. “Because of CJCP I had great options for my future, and the strong support system CJCP built through college counseling helped me a lot,” says graduating senior Debora Ortega-Maldonado who will head off to Harvard in the fall. “I am grateful for my wonderful teachers and a diverse community who have been supporting me since sixth grade.”

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