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Against the odds, Paterson student gets into Columbia University

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PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) -- Only 19 out of 594 Paterson students who took the SATs last year achieved a score that deemed them "college ready." But one student did so well, he's headed for the Ivy League.

A senior at Kennedy High School, Frank Carlos Castro has been accepted to Columbia University. He credits Gliman Choudhury, parent coordinator at Paterson Public Schools, with helping him achieve his goal.

Choudhury supervises the robotics club. Castro is the team's Captain.

"In the four years of knowing him, I found him to be an amazing person," Choudhury said of the teen. "A person that actually believes in the merit of education, not just about getting good grades, but actually learning. And the moment I found out about him getting into Columbia, that was just the icing on the cake."

Choudhury and Castro come from similar backgrounds. Both immigrated to the United States as small children. Both have attended Paterson public schools and credit their teachers and mentors for their success. And both want to give back to the community they came from.

"Now it's my turn to give back to the family and really do my best," Castro said.

Choudhury said Castro has tossed around the idea of returning to Paterson after college to start an educational nonprofit.

"That is so refreshing to hear," said Manny Martinez, a commissioner on the Paterson Board of Education. "For so long, the notion of being successful in the city of Paterson is whether or not you are able to make it out. But that trend is starting to change."

Castro's success comes at a time when many high school students in Paterson are struggling, especially with their SAT scores, crucial for college applications.

Martinez said the district will be increasing the amount of time students spend preparing for SATs in the classroom, and an outside test-prep company will be brought in to help students improve.