Posted by Joan Hanna on September 28, 2016 in Blog

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Nearly 650 Paterson, New Jersey students began the semester in a newly built school earlier this month. The school is dedicated to Arab American Dr. Hani Awadallah. 

Dr. Awadallah, was a leader in the Arab American community, heading up the Arab American Civic Organization.  He also passionately supported education for children. Of Palestinian descent, he graduated from Cairo University with a BA in chemistry and geology, and taught in Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States to earn a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Dr. Awadallah moved to New Jersey to further his career but made it his home and played a key role in building the Arab American community. He was hired as a professor of chemistry at Montclair State University, and even worked to create the chemistry department at MSU in 1970.

Dr. Awadallah helped to ensure new immigrant families found supportive spaces in Paterson and his passion for diverse communities was not limited to Arab Americans. Dr. Awadallah fought for additional security outside schools and was dedicated to attending Paterson’s Multicultural Roundtable after there was an outbreak of violence among Latino and African American students. And after the tragic events of 9-11, Dr. Awadallah advocated for the rights of some in the Arab and South Asian communities when they were detained in the Passaic County Jail.

Paterson Councilman Andre Sayegh said, “Dr. Hani Awadallah was a tireless advocate for Paterson's children. He was proud of his Arab American heritage. In fact, he even ran an Arabic school on the weekends to educate youth. Students participated and benefited from this experience, learning about Arab culture and history. Dr. Awadallah was a credit to our community.” Dr. Awadallah unexpectedly passed away in January 2012 of a heart attack.

The Dr. Hani Awadallah School features over 27 classrooms, a media center, cafeteria, gym, and administrative and other facilities.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Dr. Hani Awadallah School will be on September 29th at 10:00am. Join members of the community members at 515 Marshall Street to hear from community leaders about the new school, as well as the life and work of Dr. Awadallah.