ORANGE, NJ — When Orange Preparatory Academy Co-Principal Andrea Dooley-Malloy asked Reggie Miller, director of the school’s Male Student Support Program, to send out a text message blast asking men to turn out for the first day of school, she had no idea what kind of response they’d get.
To her delight, and that of Co-principal Dana Gaines, men from throughout the school district showed up, including West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson; former at large Councilman Elroy Corbitt; Patrick Morrissy, the founder and executive director of Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Inc; firefighter Leonard Stewart; David Armstrong; and Orange High School teacher Earl Bellfield, among others.
“Hello my brothers,” said Miller’s text blast on Tuesday, Sept. 6. “Thursday (Sept.) 8 is the first day of school. At this time, we are asking all men to come out and greet the kids in front of the school at any time between 7:15 and 8:30 a.m. If you’re not in uniform for your job, please wear a tie and greet the kids with a smile. We need you now!”
“When Reggie Miller calls, I know it’s something important, so I’m going to be here. Whatever Reggie supports, I want to be a part of it,” said Morrissy on Thursday, Sept. 8. “Orange is the most wonderful city in the country and diversity is all part of that. Every one of us remembers going back to school; starting, even if it’s not our first day in this school, feeling nervous about it: ‘Here, I’ve got this whole year ahead of me.’ Yeah, this is what we should be doing.”
Armstrong said, as an “education stakeholder” in Orange, he couldn’t agree more with Morrissy and the other men who answered the call on the first day of school. It’s just the right thing to do, he said.
“I’m a parent and grandparent in the Orange School District,” said Armstrong on Thursday, Sept. 8. “I’ve got a young grandson in Lincoln Avenue School. I’ve got a grandson that’s starting the 10th grade at Orange High School. I’m part of the whole district.
“I’m here at OPA, ‘The Prep,’ just to give my support. I had to make sure I walked my high-schooler to school, let him know I’m there for him. And I just came from around Lincoln Avenue, letting my second-grader know that I’m there for him. And I just came back to The Prep to let them know I’m there for them.”
Johnson was quick to agree.
“I got reached out to by the fabulous, one and only Reggie Miller,” Johnson said Thursday, Sept. 8. “He made the clarion call for the men in the community, so I felt I should start my day off with these children before I go to work. I came here because the high school, middle school and Lincoln Avenue School are in my ward. I have a lot of education going on in my ward, so I have to show some interest, although I’m an empty nester and a grandparent. My granddaughter lives in North Carolina. All these children here are in my village, so I have to participate.”
Dooley-Malloy said that’s what she likes to hear from men in the community that the Orange Public Schools serves, which is why she asked Miller to send out the request.
“Unfortunately, this is the time, at this age, (when) they need us the most and want us the least, so we don’t take our kids to school at this age. So I wanted to ensure that we had males represented out here to greet all of our new incoming students and returning freshmen and we had a male presence,” said Dooley-Malloy.
“It’s important because, as the mother of two sons, I realize the significance. It’s also important because, oftentimes, in education it’s females and I think it’s important for all young people, both males and females, to have positive male role models in their lives,” she added.
“We’re prepping our students for college, career and beyond,” Dooley-Malloy continued. “It’s important that you learn various languages and you’re able to meet and greet your parents and students, so I’m actually learning Haitian Creole as well. It’s part of my choice. It’s not part of the job, but I think it’s something that will help me.” Dooley-Malloy is also fluent in Spanish.
Gaines and Miller said the kind of professionalism, dedication and teamwork on display at “The Prep” on Thursday, Sept. 8, is what sets the school, formerly known as Orange Middle School, apart from others in the district.
“We’re a unique school; we have two principals and two vice principals; we’re the eighth and ninth grade here in fabulous Orange, and right now I am welcoming all of our first-day eighth- and ninth-graders to the school,” Gaines said Thursday, Sept. 8. “We’re welcoming them also by giving them each a raffle school ticket, with a chance to win some school apparel and prizes at the end of the day as a welcome to Orange Prep. That’s what we’re doing here today and we’re going to have a great year here and we’re going to continue the fabulous work that the Orange district has done throughout the elementary schools and beyond.
“We welcome all parents, all community members, to stop by Orange Prep and find out the good things that we’re doing here.”