In an editorial, Hoboken resident Ron Bautista explains why he will be voting yes on the $241 million school referendum, stating “I believe our kids are worth it.”
Landing a role as vice president at one of America’s top 20 companies is a game-changing professional leap for a Latino immigrant like me. I’m a U.S. citizen now, but that’s not where my story began; I lived as an undocumented immigrant in Hoboken for 11 years.
I was born in Ecuador, and because of political and corporate corruption, my parents and I had to leave our homes just like hundreds of thousands of families did in 1999.
I always say how lucky I am, since although it was a long process at least I had a path to citizenship. That life experience marked me, became part of my identity, and part of my continuous battle with myself against imposter syndrome.
I graduated from Hoboken High School in 2004 because my parents made that choice. Although they had degrees from Ecuador, they were led to believe that they could not work in their field. They ended up working for themselves, cleaning homes all around Hoboken.
Something that always stuck with me was how certain people would tell my dad “why are you wearing pants and a button up shirt? You work cleaning houses for a living, you should wear old, worn-out clothes.”
My dad saw that comment for what it was, a way to put him down and diminish his work, and so he would reply: “I define the image of my work, and the way I dress expresses the respect of who I am as a worker.”
He knew his value, we priced accordingly (I also cleaned homes) and he made a job that to many was a “low-skill job”, into an essential one.
That’s the message I want to send to our kids on January 25th by voting YES for the new public Hoboken High School; that they’re worth the investment.
I believe there’s growth in solidarity; that when we look out for each other, we all grow as a community. I wanted to share some answers to the criticisms on the proposed high school:
Why the Physical Therapy room? It’s intended to serve special needs students.
Why the Wellness studio? It’s for mindfulness and meditation, which are part of how the school district achieved the NJ Lighthouse status for restorative justice processes. The New Jersey Department of Education launched this status to recognize school districts and charter schools for “illuminating the path toward educational improvement and equitable outcomes.”
Why the new pool? We have a high school and middle school swim team, which now includes 5th graders as well. Right now the only pool is in the current high school building.
Why the gyms? 8 year olds have rec basketball games at 8pm because there is so little gym space. They’re using Wallace most of the time because the high school one is full. This project brings an additional two gyms: a gym and an aux gym in the new high school, so that the existing gym at the high school building would be for the middle school.
Why the ice rink? It has been an ask I’ve heard from the community for years. In terms of Hoboken High School, the current team now gets bussed to Bayonne for ice time, our district pays Bayonne for the rink as well as the bus rides.
So having our own rink will have a growing number of Hoboken kids staying in Hoboken, and it is a potential revenue generator that can help cover incremental costs associated with community facilities.
I understand the frustration about the timing of the vote; I’m a voter and taxpayer just like you.
This vote is a first step to keeping our representatives accountable, and together we can ensure these facilities are also open to the community at large.
The way I see it, voting against this proposal won’t be a vote against the process. Voting “no” really means denying the many infrastructure needs for all of our kids. I believe our kids are worth it, and I’m “yes” on January 25.
Ron Bautista, Class of 2004, Hoboken High School
Editor’s note: Ron Bautista is also the president of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County.