IRVINGTON, NJ — When Grove Street Elementary School opened its doors to begin the new public school year Thursday, Sept. 8, there was a doctor in the house; the school’s library media specialist, October Hudley, recently earned her doctorate degree in education technology from New Jersey City University.
“It’s an important day in history; the first African-American woman has gotten her doctorate from the College of Education and from New Jersey City University,” said Dr. Cordelia Toomey of the New Jersey City University Educational Department on Friday, May 6.
Hudley described herself as a proud product of the Irvington Public Schools who once attended Grove Street School herself.
“It means paving the way for the African-American men and young women to follow behind me,” said Hudley of her accomplishment on Friday, May 6. “It’s such a deep honor to actually be one of the first … I actually guess you could consider me a trailblazer. … I would like for (those who come after me) to make sure that, no matter what people say, whatever their goals and dreams and whatever they would like to conquer in the future, all they have to do is work hard, be determined, never give up and hold on to faith.”
Leah Jackson, president of the New Jersey City University Black Alumni Administrators Faculty Students and Staff Organization, said Hudley is right to call herself a trailblazer.
“BAAFSO is an organization of individuals identified as being of African heritage on campus, whether they be student, staff, faculty, administrator, or alumni,” said Jackson on Friday, May 6. “It is an organization that was created to uplift students of African heritage here on campus; to graduate students of African heritage in large numbers; but also to bring more faculty of African heritage on to campus, as well as empower those that are working in staff and administrative positions. Even though we have a president who is of African heritage, we can see throughout the news and everything that we’ve seen in the world, now more than ever, do we need each other.”
“The students that come to this university come from these areas that we see so much crime, violence, miseducation, and poor education,” Jackson said. “These are the students that come to New Jersey City University and, therefore, when they come through these doors, we, as faculty, staff, administrators and so on, must be able to be a support, but also to be a mentor, to be a listening, sounding board for the students that are here, not just to teach them, but to learn from them. And it’s vital that we have an organization such as this and students like October Hudley here at NJCU, because students in those categories that I listed are often not spotlighted, not given the due, not made sure that they are given the special attention that they need.”
Hudley said she has taken Jackson and Toomey’s words to heart and plans to put them into action at Grove Street School, on behalf of all the students in the district that she hopes to continue educating and inspiring. The librarian has been doing for years, dressing up as “The Cat in the Hat” and other famous characters from children’s literature to get her students’ attention and keep them focused on learning.
“I actually went to Grove Street School as a student and one of my goals in reaching this doctorate level was to show my children, no matter where you’re from, you can achieve,” she said, adding, “I plan on returning to school and I’m going to have my children put my regalia on and wear my cap, just so, that way, they can feel the cloth of a doctorate student.
“You don’t have to be rich, because I don’t come from a rich family. As a matter of fact, I’m the first in the family to even graduate from college. And during those years, from 2000, when I went for my master’s degree, all the way to 2016, there were many challenges that made it very difficult, but I was just determined and all I could do was think about my students, how they really need a positive role model to look up to.”