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Remarks in a Discussion With Project GRAD Students in Newark, New Jersey

November 04, 1999

The President. You know Senator Lautenberg, Congressman Payne, your Mayor James. Jayson, don't you think you ought to introduce Mr. Katz to these people?

[At this point, NBA New Jersey Nets player Jayson Williams made brief remarks and introduced Nets co-owner Lewis Katz who also made brief remarks.]

The President. Tell us about this Project GRAD program. Anybody want to tell me about it? Go ahead.

Student. Project GRAD is a scholarship program that guarantees you a $6,000 scholarship.

The President. If you do what?

Student. If you maintain a 2.5 grade point average, and you have to take two summer institute college preps for two summers. And you have to go to Malcolm X Shabazz for 4 years and graduate within that 4 years. You can't do it in 5 years but 4 years. You have to take college preparatory courses.

The President. So harder courses and two summer schools?

Student. Not harder courses, it's like college prep.

Student. We also have to take 40 hours of community service in our 4 years. We can take 10 hours a year. We can do how many hours that we can do in our 4 years.

The President. What community service are you doing?

Student. Me, I'm a freshman, so——

The President. You haven't started yet. Do you think the community service requirement is a good thing?

Students. Yes, yes.

The President. In the State of Maryland— Maryland is the only State in America where you have to do community service as a requirement. It's like taking American history or English or whatever. It's like a requirement for getting your high school diploma. And it's a requirement to be in this program.

Are you in the band?

Student. Yes.

The President. What's your instrument?

Student. Trumpet.

The President. Good. How long have you been playing?

Student. Six years.

The President. That's great. It's not quite as big a thrill as Jayson Williams, maybe, but I also got to—I spent a lot of time with Wynton Marsalis. He's the only musician, I think, in the world who is both the greatest jazz musician and the greatest classical musician on his instrument. Good guy.

What else do you want to tell me about this program?

[The discussion continued.]

The President. Is there a limit to the number of young people who can be in the program in this high school?

Student. No. You just have to meet all the requirements.

The President. So anybody who meets the requirements can be in the program?

Student. Yes.

[The discussion continued.]

The President. How long has this program been going on? Do you know?

Student. This is the third year. This will be the third year.

The President. Are there three groups of people who have already graduated from high school?

Students. No.

The President. You're the first. Just juniors. And how many juniors are in the program? Most of them? And do you think 100 percent of the juniors in the program will go to college?

Student. Yes.

[The discussion continued.]

The President. Is Bob Milliken here? Mr. Milliken started the communities in schools program—how long ago now? He's been working at this for 25 years, and over 15 years ago, when I was Governor of Arkansas, he came to Arkansas, and he put some of—the program started off in big cities like Newark, and then he put them in small towns and rural areas, too. It's a wonderful thing. People that commit their lives to this are real heroes in my opinion.

[The discussion continued.]

The President. What you're doing is better, I think, it's more comprehensive. We couldn't afford nationally to put it in everywhere. What we're doing I think can be used also by you. This GEAR UP program is one that Congress adopted last year that was developed based on a model that colleges in Philadelphia had pioneered, and the Congressman from Philadelphia, Chaka Fattah, got Mr. Payne and Senator Lautenberg and others to help, and we passed a program that basically provides funds to help college students go in with junior high school kids, middle school kids, and say, "Look, you've got a guarantee of going to college if you make your grades, and we'll help you." And then the colleges come in and tutor and mentor the kids and work with them wherever we have this.

This is better because it works from the beginning of school all the way up. But anything we can do, it seems to me, to make every young person know that college is a real possibility if they stay in school and do the work and learn the subjects I think are very important.

How does the scholarship program work? Where does the money come from? Do you put up the $6,000 for all the kids?

William M. Freeman. It's not just Lucent Technologies, Mr. President. It's a combination of a lot of things together. And we give $1,000 the first year, $1,000 the second, $2,000 the third, and $2,000 the fourth year. And that's reserved for each child from when you start out. And we committed over 12 years, so that the first kindergarten class is guaranteed when they graduate, from that year through 12.

The President. And you can calculate based on your family income whether you can also get a Pell grant. And they get it over and above, don't they?

Mr. Freeman. Yes, no matter what, they get that.

The President. And whether you're eligible for college loans and all that. Those of you who have families who can help, they're also entitled to a $1,500 tax credit for what they pay towards your college education. So if you get the scholarship and the Pell grant and your family puts up $1,500, they can get the money back from their taxes.

So if you put it all together now, we pretty much open the doors of college to everybody.

[The discussion continued.]

The President. I was out in Los Angeles the other day, the first one of these tours we took called the new market tour, trying to get more investment into our cities. And I went to this program where young people like you who were interested in automotive engineering were designing their own cars by computer. And they had this software program where they could manage—the program would allow them to drive their cars and see how their design worked when they took sharp curves at high speeds, how they handled crashes, how they did everything. It was an amazing thing.

By the time you go to school on this, you could do the whole thing on a computer with a software program to figure out how to build the cars of the future. They're already building automobiles with—experimental cars, for example, with composite materials, that is, not all steel. And I went to the Detroit Auto Show, and they can build cars now that weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds less than the normal car, but that don't get hurt anymore in crashes.

They've always been able to make real light cars to get high mileage and be efficient, but they've been more dangerous. And now the materials are being developed so that we can make very light cars which are much more energyefficient, pollute the atmosphere a lot better, and which don't get—if anything, they're safer in collisions and crashes.

So it will be very exciting. By the time you get into that, we'll be doing things with transportation we can't even imagine now. And to avoid traffic jams, you'll be able to put a little computer program in your car and just program it, and your car will take you wherever it's necessary to avoid the traffic, which, for people that live in highly congested areas will be a welcome development. You may be the most popular person in your class. [Laughter]

[The discussion continued.]

The President. I'll tell you, one great thing about our country is that, of all the countries in the world, we have the best system of undergraduate college education. And so, the good news for you is that we have—there are literally probably 300 schools in America, maybe more, where you can get a world-class undergraduate education in a whole lot of different areas, which means that it's a good thing to have it in your mind where you want to go to school, but you also should remember that you've got a lot of options, and you can't lose. So it's not like—if you think you want to go one place, and it doesn't work out there, and you get a better deal somewhere else, you really should know that America has—we're so blessed. We've got this wonderful, wonderful system of undergraduate education and colleges where there are literally hundreds of good choices. So you'll all do well.

And I just want to thank you for what you're doing with your lives and what an example you're setting for other young people in this community. I hope my coming here will give this program and you some nationwide publicity so more schools will set up things like this, because this is really wonderful.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. in the library at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Sharpe James; jazz musician Wynton Marsalis; and former Gov. William E. Milliken, of Michigan, founder and president, Communities In Schools, Inc. William M. Freeman is president and chief executive officer, Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Mr. Williams and Mr. Katz. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in a Discussion With Project GRAD Students in Newark, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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