Editor’s Note

One year ago, I wrote in my Editor’s Note about the great outdoors and how stepping outside can help us get clarity of our current situation. Last June, deep in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, we were at a very different place than we are today. Yet, I think the same advice holds true – if we can step outside (ourselves, rather than just outdoors) and take a look back at our pandemic year, through the hardships came some rays of light.

The health scare was real and meant a great deal of suffering and loss for many. The fear also caused most people to slow down your lives, spend more time with family, learn who you really are and who you can count on, which was very therapeutic. So today, as life is opening up and we are resuming some of our “normal” life activities and adventures, it’s a great opportunity to focus on the optimistic aspects of the year and help ourselves move forward.

This month’s issue of Princeton Perspectives does just that with Positive Parts of the Pandemic. We are grateful to the local residents who were willing to share with us something good that came about in the past 15 months. You can see and hear their responses by playing The Pulse of Princeton video segment.

One thing that brought a lot of love and joy into people’s lives was a new pet. More pets joined families last year than ever before! We take a look at this wonderful craze in Pandemic Pets Helped Some Find Happiness Amongst the Hardships.

For some, snuggling with their pet helps them cope and for others, channeling their thoughts and feelings into music gets them through. As live music resumes, we’ll have an opportunity to not only hear some of our favorite bands and performers again but to hear what they created in the months of isolation. Getting the Bands Back Together…” – the Resurgence of Live Music in Princeton shares and insider’s perspective of the local music scene and what we have to get excited for.

We will see some stars rocking out on stage in the near future, but you don’t have to be a musician to be a rock star. In Young Rock Star Volunteers Helping Out All Around Us we highlight some of the amazing people that stepped forward to help our community in a troubling time of need.

Also helping others are companies that knew they had a job to do and didn’t let COVID halt their efforts. Adaptation, Thriving and Scientific Innovation During the Pandemic shares some of the scientific breakthroughs that local experts have been working on all year long. Read on to find out about these great possibilities.

Lastly, not all stories end the day we post them. You can get timely updates on stories we covered in a previous issue of Princeton Perspectives by reading our Perspectives Revisited.

Next month we’ll show you how to move forward by looking back as we delve into the many great historic offerings all around us! We hope you and your families are finding health and happiness with each day ahead and are looking forward to the summer.

Pulse of Princeton: Positive Parts of the Pandemic

Our hearts go out to those that suffered from sickness and loss due to COVID-19. Through the hardships, silver linings emerged that have helped us move forward. Today we focus on those positive parts.

We’d love to include YOUR perspective! If you’d like to contribute a video for next month’s Pulse of Princeton, click here and provide your name and email address to be contacted.

Pandemic Pets Helped Some Find Happiness Amongst the Hardships

At a time when we were forced to stay home more, forced to spend more time with our nuclear families and forced to figure out how we could make ourselves happy without a lot of outside influence, the past 15 months of the pandemic helped many come to the realization that it was primetime to bring home a pet. The unconditional love and companionship of pets brought happiness and positivity into an otherwise difficult year. And pets, too, benefitted from loving homes and opportunities they might have waited much longer for.

EVERYONE WANTS A PET

Whether it was the opportunity to be home and have more time for walking and playing, a chance to be around to ensure proper feeding and grooming, or simply a need to have another friend around, the “pandemic pet” craze became a reality around the country and here in Princeton. This craze brings with it lots of love and joy, and also a lot to think about.

“In mid-March [2020], as soon as the Governor of New Jersey put the stay-at-home order in place, which was supposed to be two weeks, we started to see this uptick. When it was extended past the two weeks, it completely was doubling, tripling, quadrupling our applications,” recalls Heather Achenbach, Executive Director of SAVE animal shelter in Skillman. “Once people thought it was continuing, realizing they totally could get a pet – the longer it went, the more of a frenzy it became.”

Adopting a pet to permanently live with you and join your family is a big commitment. And that was the right decision for many. For others, who weren’t yet sure or who simply needed temporary companionship, fostering was a better option. Kim Callea, Assistant Manager at EASEL animal rescue league in Ewing, shares how this choice became extremely popular.

“EASEL’s fostering network on the dog team exploded in the best way possible, and we at one point had more dogs in foster than cats (which has never happened in my 5 years of being here). More people were home, therefore they had the time to foster. Many wanted to help, but not make the commitment to adopting, so fostering was a great opportunity.”

Dogs were not the only pet of choice. Cats, which were adopted 50% more at EASEL in 2020 than 2019, saw a significant increase in fostering, too.

“Our cat foster applications went up significantly and our capacity doubled. This was especially important during “Kitten Season” from May through October,” explains Barbara Amideneau, EASEL Cat Foster Coordinator. “We had more families who were not traveling for summer vacation wanting to foster during that critical time.”

At Princeton Animal Hospital, last summer also brought in four times the number of new patients, with 160 new pets coming in each month compared to an average of 30-40 monthly prior to the pandemic.

“At a time where people may feel lost and alone due to the isolation, adding a furry companion can be great for mental health!” notes Princeton Animal Hospital Practice Manager, Allie Whartenby.

In fact, 90% of respondents in a recent study out of the UK said their pet helped them cope emotionally during the lockdown. While dogs and cats were most popular, the study showed that emotional bonds with all kinds of animals showed equal benefits. This could explain why purchases of fish, reptiles, birds and hamsters also grew dramatically this past year.

PET FAMILIES, THE PROS AND CONS

The Evans family, which has lived in Princeton for over 19 years, hasn’t had a pet since 2003. That all changed this year, when family dynamics and the yearning for a furry friend won out.

“A pet is something we’ve talked about on and off for years,” explains Sue Evans. “This past fall, our middle daughter moved to college in Texas and our oldest started a full-time job in Texas. That meant our youngest daughter was home without her sisters. The house was super quiet and felt empty. My oldest started fostering a kitten in October, and we all fell in love (long distance). They both came home from November to January, and we decided we really needed a kitten.”

Loki, a tuxedo kitten named for their favorite Marvel character, was adopted from SAVE and became an instant part of the family. And it’s been easy, as currently there is always someone at home to provide care and attention. This timing also created an unintended consequence as Loki became largely unaccustomed to strangers.

“Since we got her during a time of limited visitors, she does NOT like other people. She gave my middle daughter a lot of attitude when she came home from school a few weeks ago – won’t go near her, doesn’t let her pet her, runs away when she sees her. If someone comes over, Loki hides – she is not a people person,” states Evans.

The fast and furious swarms of interest at shelters, stores and breeders also brought about other unintended consequences. The northeastern U.S. is a very popular area for pet ownership and an area where many other states send their animals, because we don’t have the homeless pet issues that occur down south. SAVE, for example, gets regular deliveries of animals from Tennessee, yet could not find anyone to drive transport last year for fear of contracting COVID-19. This limited the number of animals available there for adoption.

“We emptied ourselves of dogs more times than I can count. I think it was 4 or 5 times. Literally, no adoptable dogs,” recalls Achenbach.

Local breeders encountered a similar flurry of demand and could not keep up. According to Patricia Hess of Bella Pups, a Pennington-based breeder of golden retrievers and goldendoodles for over 20 years, dogs only have two heats a year and it’s recommended they only produce a litter once annually. This puts limits on how many dogs a good breeder can have available. Yet, it didn’t stop people from trying.

“We were flooded. I literally had to take my phone number and email off the website for a time, I couldn’t keep up with it,” shares Hess, whose breed makes for very intelligent and desirable pets.

While many had to travel far and wide to find specific breeds, luck was on the side of the Levine family, who felt getting a dog from a breeder was their only choice due to asthma and allergies in the family. Their need for a non-shedding dog and their love for doodles led them to find a breed called labradoodle (a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle) from a breeder in nearby Bucks County, PA.

“We were fortunate that someone on the waitlist backed out and we got their slot, we only waited 8 weeks. We would have had to wait at least 6 months otherwise,” states Dana Levine, who lives in Princeton with her husband and two children.

The Levines both work full-time jobs, so they had been hesitant to respond to their children’s pleas for a dog. But the pandemic’s work-from-home situation led them to rethink things. The house may not be as clean these days and there are earlier wake-up calls, but their mini-labradoodle, Tony Pickles, is a welcomed addition to the family.

“We’re beyond happy. Tony has brought endless love to the Levine household. Additionally, I’ve met new friends who also have dogs in my neighborhood because of him,” says Levine.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

The difficulty of finding a dog at a breeder led many to turn to shelter and rescue pets, which was great for those dogs and cats. After 15 months, they are all seeing things slow down from the frantic pace of last summer.

“I think the pendulum has swung in the other direction now. Everything has opened back up and I think people are saying let’s not get a dog now and enjoy the summer,” Hess adds.

While that may be the case, the drastic increase in dog and cat ownership this past year combined with supply chain and manufacturing delays has created shortages in dog and cat food. It’s also meant some other desirable pets are not available.

PetSmart on Nassau Park Boulevard has been selling a lot of fish and hamsters this year. Parakeets and other birds have also become extremely popular.

“From what we’ve been seeing in the last few weeks, there seems to be a vendor shortage where they can’t keep up with the demand for a lot of animals and a lot of fish as well. We can’t even keep certain animals in stock,” explains Adam Oestreicher, PetSmart Manager.

The pet store thought a lot of people wouldn’t be shopping when the initial lockdown occurred, but pets need supplies and food. So, the store never closed down, which was a bit overwhelming for the staff.

T&T Pet Supply in Skillman similarly saw its busiest season ever when the pandemic hit. 80% of their business at the time shifted to deliveries.

“When it first happened, I was doing deliveries left and right, we were already set up for it,” remembers T&T Pet Supply owner, Mark Hunsbedt. “It got so busy we had to go out and get a van!”

EMOTIONAL UPS AND DOWNS

Adapting and quick changes were the reality for everyone in the pet business. Whether selling animals or the things they need, breeding or providing animals for fostering or adoption, those in charge had to learn quickly what worked and what didn’t. Families wanted to bring home pets, but new caretakers don’t always know what’s the right fit.

“We were getting returned puppies, families that thought they were ready then realized they were so stressed from the pandemic and having kids home, instead of the pet helping, it was causing more stress,” Achenbach explains.

And stress isn’t just something that humans can feel. As our world opens back up and people begin to spend less time at home, it is important to adjust your pets to their new reality and keep them from feeling overwhelmed.

“Separation anxiety in pets is something we frequently see in patients which results in damage or destruction of the home, excessive barking or nervousness, and inappropriate bathroom habits when families leave the pet at home,” explains Whartenby. “Taking steps prior to being faced with a change to prepare your pet is important to minimize their anxiety.”

How does one do this? Before you leave for long stretches, it is suggested that you help your pet get used to you not being around by leaving them for brief periods of time. You may want to summon the help of a dog trainer to help them adjust and reduce anxiety. Whartenby also suggests utilizing items such as Kong toys that can reduce boredom while your pet is alone and to absolutely ensure the environment you leave them in is a safe one.

To date, SAVE says it has not had a single pet returned due to separation anxiety as their families return to school and work. But while you do still have a bit more time at home, it’s also great to get your pets outside with others.

“Continuing to socialize their adopted dogs is crucial. Now that restrictions are being lifted, it is important to get your pup out there and meeting new people. Summer is quickly approaching which means warm weather and sunshine – so get your dogs moving!” adds Dr. Georgia Arvanitis, EASEL VP, Director of Grants. “Similarly, for cats and kittens, they need to be introduced to people outside your immediate family, so that they are not ‘fraidy cats.’ They need to be comfortable with guests, and not run and hide when the doorbell rings!”

STILL WANT A PET?

If you haven’t yet brought home your pandemic pet, it’s important to consider the reasons you want one– are they fleeting or permanent? Our experts have some advice to guide you towards the right pet.

“Take a pet off the table if you can’t provide for it financially, give your pet the time it needs, those are the two primary commitments. You also need patience. If you don’t have those 3 things, do not get a pet. It’s that simple,” suggests Achenbach.

The life expectancy of dogs is 10-12 years and for cats it is 12-15 years, so think ahead about how many years to are able to commit for. It is also important to decide if you want or need a certain breed. Stores, shelters and rescues are great options but if you choose to seek out a breeder, do your research.

“If you can get a puppy tomorrow, that’s questionable. They should make sure they’re going to a breeder they’ve been referred to, that actually exists. A lot of people told me they were scammed,” recalls Hess.

Breeders should invite you to their home or place of work, so you can see and meet the dogs. Hess says if they suggest a different meeting spot or an odd form of payment, you should question the situation. And be patient, as a good breeder doesn’t always have a dog immediately available.

Patience is also essential when visiting your veterinarian. In addition to seeing more pets, this past year saw a shortage of veterinary graduates applying for jobs – so the clinics are short staffed!

The stores where you may get supplies and food, they are short staffed, too. And busy as ever – only more people are coming on site rather than requesting deliveries.

In the end, have patience for your pets. They, too, will be adjusting to a new normal as the world opens up more and more. But enjoy them. Thankfully the pandemic pet craze has brought more unconditional love and affection into people’s homes than ever before.

Young Rock Star Volunteers Helping Out All Around Us

Volunteers are always an essential part of our society, providing their time, money or abilities to help others. When COVID-19 hit our area in March 2020 and life essentially shut down, existing needs became even more apparent and new ones emerged. The virus was scary and brought with it countless unknowns. Many retreated to the safety of their homes, while some put aside their own fears and came forward in unprecedented ways.

As author Rick Riordan once said, “Out of every tragedy comes new strength.” That certainly was the case here, where many young volunteers in the Princeton area stepped up this past year. It’s important to recognize this greatness, which not only helped people get by, it ensured some survived. From school-aged to 20-somethings, we’re highlighting some students and graduates who are “Young Rock Star Volunteers” because their courage, attitude and strength deserve our fanatical admiration.

Princeton Mobile Food Pantry

The Princeton Mobile Food Pantry (PMFP) provided food and support to the underserved Princeton community prior to the pandemic, offering a weekly pick-up pantry to over 300 people since 2017 and helping in many other ways for more than a decade. When COVID hit, the pantry shifted to a mobile operation, utilizing volunteers to collect and deliver fresh food to more than 700 recipients. Since April 2020, nearly 130 volunteers have signed up to help through the PMFP website.

“PMFP typically has 22-24 rotating volunteers who sign up to help pack and/or deliver at our bi-monthly meetings on Wednesday mornings where we create grocery bags filled with fresh meat, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables,” describes Lilliana Morenilla, Princeton Mobile Food Pantry Chair and Founder. “We also have volunteers who cannot meet during the day so we offer lots of options for them to help on their own time. For example, we have friends who volunteer to fundraise for us by selling homemade cookies or dog biscuits online. Others have done drives (ie. dry beans, sanitary items, summer items, toothpaste, blankets, etc.) through their social networks, religious groups, sports teams, and neighborhoods. Volunteers have also reached out to help us with grant writing, or making connections to local farms and businesses, promotion through social media and new outlets.”

Rohan Sheth, a 15-year-old Hun student, first got involved two years ago by following along with his mother, Shilpa Pai. When the pandemic hit and the needs increased, so did his commitment. He began accompanying his mom weekly.

“What we would do is pack grocery bags full of food every Wednesday and then take them, in our cars, to people in and around Princeton who needed help the most,” explains Sheth. “As the summer went on, more and more people started helping out and the whole process was just accelerated and became more efficient. While I only helped out on certain days, there was also so much work happening behind the scenes that I got to see happen through my mom.”

Sheth was not the only young volunteer. Ryan (age 18) and Kyle (age 14) Grzymala had been operating their own charity for seven years when they joined forces with the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry.

Ryan was turning 11 when he asked for gently used toys for his birthday rather than new gifts. Noticing a shortage of good toys and activities for indoor recess at his school, Riverside Elementary, Ryan cleaned, organized and then distributed the used toys he received to the teachers around school. He then convinced his younger brother Kyle to do the same and R+K=Toys was born. Over the years, 1000s of toys have been collected with donations from and benefitting all four Princeton elementary schools and a freecycle event, enhancing the indoor recess and learning environment for all Princeton students. Unopened toys were also provided to Homefront to give out for the holidays. Seeing all the joy the toys brought to kids, the duo decided to rename their operation R+K=Smiles.

When COVID hit, their collections shifted to curbside pickups and Ryan and Kyle decided to partner with Princeton Mobile Food Pantry to help with that operation as well as to find a new way to distribute their toys.

“We are working with a new organization and our goal is to recycle 200+ items a month for kids who would really like new things to play with,” shares Ryan. “Plus, it helps to keep stuff out of the landfill.”

Over the years R+K=Smiles has also coordinated their efforts with the Princeton Public Library and Sustainable Princeton.

Sustainable Princeton

Since 2012, Sustainable Princeton has been working to inspire the community in ways that positively impact our environment. Throughout the past year, when priorities for many shifted to a more personal survival mode, Sustainable Princeton powered forward with initiatives they hope will have long-lasting effects on the survival of our community-at-large.

A recent graduate of Rider University who grew up in Princeton’s Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood, Samuel Garcia volunteers his time with the organization. He learned the importance of volunteering from his parents during his middle school years and it stayed with him.

I really enjoy walking through the Pettoranello Gardens with my family and the heavy amounts of littering continues to be alarming,” recalls Garcia. “That is what motivated me to attend a Sustainable Princeton presentation and ultimately changing my lifestyle.”

Garcia has been volunteering with Sustainable Princeton ever since and after two years, recently got promoted to Intern.

“Whether Samuel is helping with a neighborhood cleanup, giving a presentation about the health impacts of climate change, or helping sign up Princeton residents for an emergency notification program, he does it with quiet humility and genuine care about his community,” shares Christine Symington, Sustainable Princeton Program Director.

The major initiative Sustainable Princeton has taken on this past year is Changing the Landscape: Healthy Yards = Healthy People. The project’s goal is to encourage landscaping practices that are healthier for workers and the environment. Sustainable Princeton is working together with other local organizations and the community, and Garcia is playing a key role.

“He continues to provide valuable insight into the culture and values of our local Hispanic community to inform our efforts,” notes Molly Jones, Sustainable Princeton Executive Director.

Housing Initiatives of Princeton

Also working with our local Hispanic community as a bilingual speaker of English and Spanish, Guillermo Herrera Nimmagadda was finishing his first semester as a graduate student at Princeton University this past December when he jumped right into a volunteer role with Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP).

“I knew the pandemic had led to a severe housing crisis. Because I was frequently in contact with Spanish-speaking residents, it also meant I could serve my Latinx community, which had been disproportionately hurting from COVID-19,” says Herrera Nimmagadda.

HIP has been offering affordable rental opportunities (transitional housing) and services to help low-income working families stay in the area since 2004. The organization recently received a State grant to provide rental assistance and Herrera Nimmagadda was able to help local Spanish-speakers apply and benefit from this and the county offerings as well.

“When Mercer County had announced its Emergency Rental Assistance Program, there was only an English form available to apply,” shares Herrera Nimmagadda. “Jeff Simon and I had decided to create an unofficial Spanish version of the form to make it easier for Latinx residents to apply, in which they filled out the unofficial form in Spanish and we then submitted the official form in English on their behalf. Soon thereafter, Mercer County actually adopted our Spanish translation and uploaded a Spanish version of the application because Carol Golden at HIP had informed them of our translation.”

Simon began volunteering with HIP in December as well, and along with Herrera Nimmagadda helps the organization sort through applications to grant assistance. At 34-years old, Simon is slightly older than some of our other Rock Star Volunteers, but his joint efforts with Herrera Nimmagadda warrant a mention. Simon is not a native Spanish speaker but learned the language through courses at his public schools and in his years at the University of Michigan. After teaching amongst immigrant communities for several years, Simon earned his degree as an immigration lawyer and now works for and volunteers to help advocate for opportunities.

“The pandemic has taken a serious toll on our undocumented neighbors, who receive very little federal and state assistance,” explains Simon. “There’s a lot of suffering out there, a lot of people can’t pay their rent because they lost their jobs – many because they were laid off as a result of the pandemic, but others had to stay home with their children who were doing school remotely, and still others were taking care of relatives.”

Princeton Mutual Aid

Simon also gives his time to Princeton Mutual Aid (PMA) where he volunteers alongside Nymisha Herrera Nimmagadda, Guillermo’s wife.

PMA provides support to those in our community that need it. This could be in the form of food, money and medicine or the assistance of job opening information, providing COVID essentials like masks or vaccine access and offering other advocacy and assistance.

Nymisha and Guillermo moved here in the midst of the pandemic last fall, and she immediately began helping through PMA to bag groceries and deliver them to local seniors.

“Through these encounters and other interactions, it became evident that not all neighbors in Princeton had the same access to resources. There was only one free testing site within walkable distance in town and it only provided testing once a week for a 2-hour window,” notes Nymisha. “By contrast, all university affiliates participated in a regular protocol of testing twice per week at no cost. It is unjust that the rest of the town’s inhabitants had only one extremely limited option for testing, even as they share the same streets, stores, restaurants, and places of worship with the university community. They shared the risks but had none of the same safety measures.”

In conjunction with other local organizations, 29-year old Nymisha sought out to form an action group which protested with 200 community members and submitted a petition of nearly 900 signatures to encourage Princeton University to share its COVID resources with the greater community.

“In April, the University decided to expand its COVID testing and vaccination to the whole town of Princeton. Additionally, we attended the Board of Health meetings and highlighted to the Health Department as well as the Board how the vaccine rollout was inequitable and leaving communities of color behind. The Health Department has now implemented community clinics at local venues as well as in the neighborhoods,” explains Nymisha.

Like Nymisha, Shuk Ying Chan felt her status as a Princeton University graduate student was providing her a safety net that others in the greater Princeton community were not privy to.

“I wanted to do something to help turn this moment of crisis into something more hopeful,” Chan shares.

She joined PMA as it was just starting out in April 2020, and in addition to assisting with daily basic necessities, has become an activist for others.

“Through my work with PMA, I came into contact with contract workers at PU who had been furloughed without pay, and who had basically been abandoned by the university as soon as their labor was no longer needed, at a time of unprecedented crisis. We were outraged by this, and as a student at the university I felt an extra moral obligation to stand in solidarity with the workers whose labor makes the university and its activities possible,” Chan recalls. She then worked with a team of people to pressure the University to change its ways. “We mobilized students and PMA members to speak out at university townhalls, organized a petition of solidarity, helped the student newspaper with their investigative report on the issue, worked with union organizers.”

To further help those in town, Chan regularly attends public meetings of the municipal government to be a voice for various causes.

JFCS of Greater Mercer County

Helping others by empowering them to help themselves, Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) is an organization that has been assisting the community through a variety of social services offerings and programs since 1937. Two of its programs to help older adults are Kosher Meals on Wheels and Healthy @ Home Senior Shopper program.

22-year-old Matt Erman saw how others were giving back during the pandemic and wanted to do his part. He’s been volunteering with various organizations since his Eagle Scout years and decided in October to deliver the meals and shop for seniors.

“When you get to see the same people each and every week, you get to really know them, and a simple food drop off can often turn into a 15-minute conversation,” says Erman.

For example, there’s Iris in East Windsor, who shares her grocery lists with Erman and so much more.

“Over the past months, we have become a fixture of both our lives – she asks about my sister or how my law school search has been going, and I ask about her grandkids and her friends,” Erman shares. “The people have been my favorite part of working with JFCS and interacting with Iris is definitely something I look forward to each week.”

Erman’s efforts awarded him JFCS Volunteer of the Month alongside fellow 22-year-old Lucian Chown.

Lucian first learned to volunteer by raising and training puppies with his family at the age of ten. He also gained insight about giving back to the community in high school through a teen philanthropy program he took part in called Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF), offered by JFCS. The pandemic sent him to work from home in NJ and he wanted to give back in this time of need. So Chown started delivering for Kosher Meals on Wheels. When he made his first delivery, it was the first time he’d left the house in three months.

JFCS operated under strict COVID-19 precautions, and the individuals I delivered to were also respectful. Human interaction for Meals on Wheels is minimal, although meaningful, and mostly done outside which certainly alleviated a lot of my concerns,” Chown explains. “One man shouts his thanks through the door each week. That always makes me smile!”

Erman and Chown are amongst the 200 volunteers that help JFCS provide mobile and pick-up food pantries, senior services, youth programs, counseling services and more. At a time when strong and willing volunteers were really needed, they have stepped up.

“These particular volunteers are motivated by an obvious sense of responsibility and a desire to do their part to repair the world,” boasts Eden Aronson, JFCS Volunteer Coordinator. “Their work ethic and unlimited availability has helped immeasurably at a time when many volunteers have been careful about being out in the world. We are so fortunate to be the recipient of their loyalty.”

Arts Council of Princeton

To be out in the world during the pandemic, one needed a mask…and that is what led Arts Council of Princeton to launch its Sew Many Masks campaign last March, which aligns perfectly with its mission to build community through the arts.

“At that time masks were hard to come by, and our community rallied around this effort by donating fabric and picking up kits to sew masks,” details Melissa Kuscin, Arts Council of Princeton’s Program/Marketing Manager. “In the end, our volunteers helped us create almost 2,000 fabric masks that were then distributed to anyone who needed them, free of charge.”

The masks were passed out at soup kitchens and distribution sites around the community, to ensure the most vulnerable populations were protected. Their creations came from a combination of volunteer efforts, with some donating fabric, others pre-cutting and more sewing. Adults and children chipped in, including a local Girl Scout troop.

“The Arts Council’s Sew Many Masks project gave our troop a chance to use the sewing skills we learned in Girl Scouts during middle school and helped many people in our community,” recalls 16-year old Bhavana Thelakkat. “We sewed masks, made t-shirts masks and t-shirt yarn at home. I also enjoyed creating videos for Sew Many Masks to help others learn how to contribute as well. Overall, this project was a great experience as it helped to make a positive impact on so many people!”

And what a positive impact these girls and all of our Rock Star Volunteers have made. In a year that was difficult for so many, it’s nice to know there are people in our community we can count on.

Editor’s Note

Love wins. Kindness is everything. Diversity is celebrated. Signs like these, posted all around, began sprouting when society decided to no longer tolerate bias, racism and bigotry.

It is an innate part of being human to have thoughts and judgements about others. But when those thoughts and judgements are unreasonable and personal, they become biases. And biases hurt. Can we ever come to a point when we all see and hear others without judging?

In this month’s issue of Princeton Perspectives we take a look at the sensitive topic of Biases in our Hometown.

It is scary and intimidating to be honest about bias, yet we found several brave locals willing to share their perspectives in this month’s Pulse of Princeton. We asked them whether they have experienced any bias in our area and what they feel needs to be done.

We also reached out to our community to try and gage what it’s really like in Princeton. In Bias Incidents are on the Rise. What’s it Like Here? we share our findings about biases in our town and county, and reactions to them.

While the pandemic took its toll on all of us, added burdens and attacks made the year even harder for some. The Invisible Asian Americans is written by a guest writer, who opened herself up to share the struggles she and many others have and are enduring.

It has been one year since the latest racial justice movement was sparked. People came out and demanded change but Has this Past Year of Racial Awareness Led Princeton to Change? Read the article to learn more.

If We Act Now, Could We Alter the Future of Bias and Create More Open-Minded Youth? That is a great question, and one our other guest writer attempts to answer in this article. Empathy, she shares, is the path to a better future.

Though these topics are difficult to discuss, this is where we are. We hope the articles help you to gain a better understanding of Princeton and our greater area today.

Before you finish the issue, we hope you’ll take a moment to read our Perspectives Revisited, where we update items previously covered in Princeton Perspectives. There is a lot going on in town these days!

Next month, we’ll lighten things up with a positive look at the pandemic. Positive? No, that’s not a typo. There are actually some great things that have come out of a year in isolation. We hope you’ll agree.

As the weather warms and it is inviting to be outside, enjoy it and take advantage. Say hi to a neighbor and try something new.

Pulse of Princeton: Have you experienced bias in our area? What can be done to eliminate them?

We’d love to include YOUR perspective! If you’d like to contribute a video for next month’s Pulse of Princeton, click here and provide your name and email address to be contacted.

Bias Incidents are on the Rise. What’s it Like Here?

A so-called liberal town, located halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, Princeton prides itself as being open-minded, made up of academics and professionals, passersby and lifers, of all nationalities and colors. Princeton, originally named Prince-town in the late 17th century, was the capital of our country for 4 brief months in 1783. But, as we’ve learned through the history of our forefathers and other national leaders, political standing doesn’t always mean political correctness. When it comes to being welcoming to others, do Princetonians do better or worse than their fellow Americans with regards to their biases and judgements? It turns out, it’s a little of both.

Merriam-Webster defines a bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.” And unfortunately, most people have some. The result is whether we care to learn more about each other and support those that are different than us, or if we let those judgements affect our interactions and harm others.

“Most people find it easy to see our differences, because typically they are obvious and involve our appearance,” explains Princeton Police Department (PPD) Chief Christopher Morgan. “We want our officers to take a moment to talk and listen to others, because more often than not, we discover how we’re closer to being the same than we are different.”

This sentiment extends far beyond the police department, though not everyone shares it. So far in 2021, the PPD has documented 9 different cases of bias incidents (though it should be noted that 3 of them were perpetrated by the same person at one time). Five of the incidents were harassment, three criminal mischief and one was cyber harassment. Additionally, a preliminary report from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General shows 140 bias incidents throughout Mercer County last year, the 3rd highest number in the state. Anti-Black, anti-Jewish and anti-gay were the most common types. You can see the full report here.

It’s important to note that data doesn’t always tell the full story, as often victims of bias attacks are too afraid or uncomfortable to report them.

BIASES BASED ON RACE

47% of all bias incidents reported in Mercer County last year were against Blacks, the largest percentage of bias incidents overall, against a group that makes up only 21% of the county population. In Princeton, Blacks comprise 5.5% of the population.

“I know as a person of color there are issues here, but on a personal level I feel welcome,” says Leighton Newlin, who was born and raised in Princeton and has lived here as an adult since 1996. “The issue with bias and because it is everywhere is what you do with it. You can either react to it or you can allow it to motivate you, to break through barriers and to use your voice, actions, attitude, intellect and insight to show people why them being biased is not a truthful reaction to what they’re seeing.”

To fight bias, Not in Our Town Princeton seeks to promote inclusive communities. Board Member Shirley Satterfield, a 6th generation Princetonian, says the need for organizations like this show that biases still exist, but she never felt them in her younger days as a Black girl in town.

“I felt welcomed in this community because our community was segregated. I went to the Princeton School for Colored Children, we had a self-contained neighborhood. I didn’t know anything about biases until they integrated the schools.”

Since integration in the 1950s, teachers and others had to be educated to know how to work together. Four years ago, Satterfield started the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. Beyond preserving the history of African Americans in Princeton, the society aims “to partner with the diverse community organizations, businesses, and town officials to promote awareness, education and interest in Princeton’s African-American heritage in tandem with the present and future development of the town of Princeton.”

Such historical education is part of the movement to help advance racial literacy and understanding in Princeton. More specifics of education and awareness are detailed in Has this Past Year of Racial Awareness Led Princeton to Change?, also in this issue of Princeton Perspectives.

When it comes to the Hispanic community, more than 100 bias incidents were noted in Mercer County last year, making them the 4th most reported in 2020. However, in Princeton and neighboring towns, it’s not just incidents that affect people.

“There is a bias with Hispanics in terms of we are seen as an afterthought. People think of that community that needs something instead of that community that also contributes,” describes Ana Paola Pazmiño, Director of Unidad Latina en Acción NJ, whose organization works to empower, organize and educate the community. “Most of our Hispanic leaders, which I’d call Latinos or Latinx, are striving and also wanting to fit, to be part of the community. To not be that afterthought. One of the ways is obviously learning the language. I’ve seen many of our community leaders forcing themselves to go to ESL classes, making sure their children are also involved in school activities so they can feel a part of the community.”

Pazmiño says there is a bias and racial tension felt in the community right now when it comes to vaccinations, for those being asked to show ID that might not have a resident card or Passport. She says the ability to get a vaccine is also troubling.

“There’s the lack of language justice for making sure the information is going out in Spanish and English, a lot of the how-to and access for those that are farm workers, working all day and only have nighttime, so their access to vaccinations is nearly impossible and there’s not a specific way to get it through their employer.”

People of other backgrounds are also feeling tension this past year. There were nearly 70 bias reports each against Asians, Whites and other races.

Xiaobing Li, an Asian American Princeton resident, says there is a common stereotype that Asian Americans are not Americans but rather “outsiders” or “guests” and not an integral part of the community.

In late March, the local “Stop Asian Hate” rally gathered hundreds at Princeton’s Hinds Plaza, denouncing recent murders of Asian Americans and calling for better understanding and education of Asians in our country – hoping it will help remove stigmas and biases. To that end, the organization Make Us Visible NJ is advocating for the meaningful inclusion of Asian American and Pacific-Islander (AAPI) studies in NJ public schools. You can read more about specific struggles Asian American’s encounter by clicking on the The Invisible Asian Americans article in this issue.

While thankfully there have not been any recent violent attacks in our area, local Asian families say the pandemic has brought about comments, including students taunting their children in school hallways and classrooms.

“You may have read the news about a Princeton High School freshman’s comments in one of the BOE meetings in March. He was born and raised in the U.S. and has been residing in Princeton schools for years, but his classmate at the middle school questioned him about if he eats dogs and shoved an umbrella to his face ‘to keep the corona away’,” retells Li. She  also recalls another incident at the rally in March. “When the volunteers were setting up banners and tables for the rally at Hinds Plaza, two white elder ladies came over and accused the volunteers of ‘spreading hate’ and threatened to write to the local authorities to report the rally organizer.”

BIASES BASED ON RELIGION

Like the taunts mentioned above, local religious bias incidents tend not to be violent but more acts of intimidation. Anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jews) is the most common form of anti-religious bias in the United States.

“Most anti-Semitic acts, other than in ultra-orthodox areas, are basically vandalism. Words, swastikas on the ground or a building, a flyer written out,” explains Mark Merkowitz, Executive Director of Jewish Federation Princeton Mercer Bucks.

Courtesy: Anti-Defamation League

Since January 2020, the Anti-Defamation League reports there have been 17 instances of White Supremacist propaganda targeting Jews in Princeton. There were also a dozen incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment in Princeton in 2020. They include Swastika graffiti that was found on a Jewish family’s mailbox and on the Princeton University campus, pornographic images disrupting a synagogue’s Zoom Shabbat prayer service, and an image of Hitler appearing during a virtual class.

It is difficult to find localized numbers when it comes to religion, but The Pew Research Center data states that 67% of adults in New Jersey are Christian, 3% are Muslim, 3% Hindu, and fewer than 1% are Buddhist. The largest minority religion in the state is Judaism, noted as 6% of the adult population.

At Princeton University (PU), there have been 10 religious bias reports on campus so far during the 2020-2021 school year (note, students were not on campus until 2nd semester). The incidents, which involved the use of visual symbols and unwelcomed speech, were anti-Semitic (4), anti-Muslim (4), and against Christianity and Scientology (2).

“At Princeton, we define bias as a broad category of behaviors including discrimination, harassment, and other actions that demean or intimidate individuals or groups because of personal characteristics, beliefs or expression,” shares Michael Hotchkiss, PU Deputy Spokesperson. “We acknowledge that more incidents may occur than are reported. Nonetheless, we take all reports of bias seriously and respond in appropriate ways based on the context and circumstances presented and in light of the University’s principles of freedom of expression.”

BIASES BASED ON SEXUALITY

The number of anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender bias incidents increased in Mercer County from 2019-2020. While no one person can speak for all, there appears to be a sense of acceptance for gender differences in town.

“I have seen LGBTQ+ people embraced in a number of settings, including political events, houses of worship, fundraisers, and festivals,” states Nick DiDomizio, a white cis gay male that has lived in Princeton for about 6 years. “But I know that BIPOC transgender and non-binary members of our community are still struggling to find acceptance.”

The LGBTQ+ liaison to the Princeton Civil Rights Commission since 2019, DiDomizio says LGBTQ+ complaints with regards to bias and discrimination would be brought to the commission but hate crimes would be directed to the police.

“I can’t say I have heard of any instances personally in my relatively short tenure here in town. I know that Princeton University used to be less of an accepting place, but many attitudes within the administration have changed. I’ve also heard testimonials from folks during the Princeton Community Pride event that they would never have felt comfortable showing public displays of affection decades ago, but they feel like it is much better now,” DiDomizio adds.

Princeton Public Schools has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community by assigning gender neutral restrooms, creating LGB and transgender protections in its policy and by hiring folks like Princeton Unified Middle School (PUMS) guidance counselor Thomas Foley, who also helps lead professional development for the district on how to best support LGBTQ+ students. In his role, Foley started the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) at PUMS as a support and advocacy group for middle school LGBTQ+ students and their allies, which also educates all students about their community.

“I often cite the CDC who has put out messaging stating that just the existence of a club like SAGA in schools decreases rates of harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools, decreases rates of student depression, and increases student attendance,” Foley shares. “The students at PUMS know that they are valued and loved no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Teachers report that more kids than ever are comfortable coming out and sharing these pieces of themselves and the students are very accepting of one another. It is a beautiful thing.”

Outward, intentional attacks with regards to sexuality are not common at the middle school, but Foley says unintentional micro-aggressions do occur.

“Micro-aggressions include telling students they are “too young” to speak on topics related to gender and sexuality, assigning students into groups based on gender, perpetuating stereotypes by making assumptions about people based on characteristics they exhibit, etc,” explains Foley. “Additionally, students have reported to me use of the word “gay” as meaning “weird,” “dumb,” etc. in the form of “that’s so gay.” This used to be far more common, but I’ve noticed that with SAGA and with the progression of our society as being more inclusive, hearing “that’s so gay” is also rarer these days but does still occur, according to my students.”

OTHER LOCAL BIASES

It is impossible to address them all in one article, but biases don’t start and end with race, religion and sexuality. As one local resident points out, Princetonians often share strong judgements when it comes to Princeton Charter School (PCS) families.

“I believe in public schools,” says a former PPS parent whose family transferred to PCS from a PPS elementary school for what they feel was a better fitting environment. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the parent added “I had no idea that in Princeton if you send your child to Charter you, as a person, are going to be questioned and there will be a great deal of social ostracism and condemnation directed your way. There’s an incredible bias and you are considered ‘One of those parents’.”

There has been tension between PPS and Charter families since Charter’s inception in 1997 when, according to the website, it was created by a group of parents seeking “high academic standards” for the children in town. A few years ago, when PCS sought expansion, the feelings of many PPS parents grew even more intense and their opinions were not only directed at the grown-ups.

“It got to the point for Charter parents, if you were sending your kid out to the park or store, you would not dress them in anything that identified them as attending Charter,” the parent recalls.

Many Princetonians against PCS would argue their opinions are not biased, they are judgements based on reasonable assessments. But the bias develops when the opinions extend beyond the existence of the school and are directed towards people – the families that attend or staff that work there, causing them to feel unwelcomed in town. Another group of people struggling with that feeling are those with conservative or Republican views. Some contend a town like Princeton, whose residents are predominantly Democrat and liberal, is a bit of an oxymoron, for to be liberal is to respect opinions that are different from your own.

“The fact that Republicans don’t even run for public office in this town speaks volumes to what the town feels about its viewpoints. This town had a mayor that ran unopposed, doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about local government,” offered a local registered Republican, hesitant to share this point of view in public. “I feel that if I gave my true feelings on anything I’d be ostracized by my neighbors and friends, and that’s no way to live in a Democracy.”

Several conservatives in town shared this viewpoint with me, noting they have been called immoral, insensitive, and criminal for supporting Republican policy or having left-of-center beliefs.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE

Working towards the betterment of our democracy is the Princeton Civil Rights Commission, helping to educate the community about implicit bias through outreach, community dialogues, community forums, seminars, focus groups and study circles.

“We also offer the ability to put organizations into training for conscious and unconscious bias. We’ve worked very closely with the Attorney General’s office over the years because they also provide bias training, they’re a ready resource,” explains Princeton Civil Rights Commission Chair, Tommy Parker. “It’s community driven. We’ll act as moderators, but the emphasis, the push and delivery is going to come from community and community stakeholders.”

As part of the municipality’s bias training, the Civil Rights Commission has created a Racial Equity Tool Kit, that is to be used by municipal leaders, departments and groups to help position their thinking and pose questions they may not have thought of while devising new policies or programs.

“The community feedback has been very favorable and feedback from municipal leaders has been positive,” adds Civil Rights Commission Vice Chair, Sherrod Smith. “At this point we’re doing what we can to make sure it’s being considered and used by municipal officials to analyze and assess policies on the front end before it goes out and you have unforeseen issues that disproportionately affect a certain population.”

Civil Rights, as described by Britannica, provides “guarantees of equal social opportunities and equal protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other personal characteristics.” Biases can contribute to violations of civil rights. If someone in the community feels they’re not being treated fairly, complaints or desires for mediation can be filed through the Human Services office or directly to the Commission.

“The Civil Rights Commission would provide them with a list of mediators, not connected to the commission or municipality. They also have access, if the other steps don’t resolve things, to the NJ State Attorney General’s office, Civil Rights Division,” adds Parker.

Parker notes that in the past year there have been more and varied organizations coming to the commission to get involved or ask questions.

Amongst the organizations seeking to do better, is the Princeton Police Department, which is focused on proper training of its Police force.

“We’ve included Implicit Bias training this year as well. All officers were required to attend that training and we promoted the idea of talking about our differences and putting just as much focus or more on taking the time to recognize our similarities,” shares Chief Morgan. “We’ve sent an officer, at her request, to attend the Cornell University Diversity and Inclusion training program. The program was such a success that another officer will be attending as well. Together, through our training program, we will be incorporating their lessons and sharing their information throughout the police department.”

Police officers nationwide have faced criticism of bias in the way they handle situations. The training is intended to open one’s eyes, to obtain a better understanding of others and of oneself to respond appropriately on calls and to determine if the incident at hand is a bias situation itself.

One can look at the numbers and say we are lucky, only 9 bias incidents have been reported so far this year in Princeton. Or, one can look and say even one incident is too many. Across town, lawn signs are posted stating “Hate has no home here.” Whether this is more hope or can become fact, time will tell.

Has this Past Year of Racial Awareness Led Princeton to Change?

In May 2020, George Floyd was arrested and killed in police custody. Princetonians quickly joined in protest, along with communities nationwide and renewed calls for racial justice were born. Shortly after, Princeton Perspectives took a look at our local response in our issue “When the Dust Settles – How a Community Turns Awareness into Action.” One year later, as we take a closer look at biases in our hometown, what progress has been made here with regards to racial justice and racial diversity?

IN OUR SCHOOLS

One of the first changes to occur last summer was the removal of the name of Princeton’s John Witherspoon Middle School. The Princeton Board of Education (BOE) gave it the temporary name last August of Princeton Unified Middle School (PUMS) and announced at the recent April 27th meeting that the new, permanent name will be in the same vein – one that is not specific to a person. At the upcoming May 25th meeting, PUMS Principal Jason Burr is expected to recommend a permanent name, possibly Walnut Lane Middle School, Princeton Community Middle School, Princeton Public Middle School, Princeton Middle School, or Princeton Unified Middle School. The community will be able to share its thoughts during open comment, and the BOE will then vote on a permanent name on June 15th.

The renaming process, though not 100% endorsed by all in town, became an educational experience for some students in the Middle and High School. There has been a further recommendation that hallways or parts of the school building should now be named to honor people with rich Princeton history that were highlighted through this process, like Betsy Stockton, and to create a legacy marker on the school’s grounds explaining the work that went into examining John Witherspoon and renaming the school.

Also, at the middle school, a new Pathways to Racial Literacy elective was added this year. 452 students in grades 6-8 will have completed this new course by year end.

“The course includes approximately 20-lessons aligned to relevant New Jersey Student Learning Standards and to standards in one of four domains (identity, diversity, justice, and action) from the Social Justice Standards put forth by Learning for Justice, an organization launched 30-years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center to reduce prejudice,” explains Keisha Smith-Carrington, Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Supervisor of Humanities, P-6.

The Pre-K through 5th grades in PPS began including racial literacy discussions in their library classes from the same standards used to devise the middle school courses.

“Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade classroom teachers who complete the foundational equity course receive a bin of texts to expand this learning into the classroom. Additional purchases of texts and curriculum revision work are planned before the year ends,” adds Smith-Carrington.  “To continue to expand racial literacy development throughout the district, the Cultivating Genius Book Study has been created and other professional learning opportunities will launch during the 2021-2022 school year.”

For grades 10-12, Princeton High School (PHS) was already offering a Racial Literacy & Justice elective. PHS is preparing to expand this course now that it has two more teachers trained to lead it. While it will remain an elective, an online self-reflective course exploring race will become required for all students.

To help move the needle further, Princeton Parents for Black Children (PPBC) was formed in January, organized by local parents to advocate for the rights of Black students within PPS.

“We believe that everyone benefits when all of our children are provided the opportunity for academic success and a healthy, encouraging environment. The families of Black children in this district, and their allies, are prepared to persistently and collectively advocate for justice and equity for our children,” shares Veronica Foreman, Co-President of PPBC.

To fulfill its commitment to address systemic racism, Princeton University (PU) has several new initiatives that began this past year and are in the works going forward. In addition to renewed efforts to hire a more diverse faculty and staff and educate a more diverse population, it is hoping to be more inclusive in its academic research and innovation. PU has created a professorship of Indigenous Studies, adopted a ‘supplier diversity action plan’ to include more minority owned businesses in its supply chain, is working on guidelines for naming or renaming things on campus and created an initiative called Princeton RISE (Recognizing Inequities and Standing for Equality), focusing on student’s civic engagement. It’s Racial Equity website details all of the efforts.

IN OUR COMMUNITY

While schools are making strides to be more racially literate, teaching and talking about race can be very sensitive. There is hope that starting at a young age will help eliminate the taboo many adults encounter with these discussions.

“They’re hard conversations to have because the person has to unpack their own baggage and be brave enough to maybe say something that might not be politically correct in today’s consciousness,” explains Tommy Parker, Chair of Princeton’s Civil Rights Commission. “One of the things that has to change is Princeton has to admit to its own real identity too. When folks think of Princeton, they think of the big institution across Nassau Street, this very rich town, and that’s its public face. But you also have a history where you literally had slaves. You didn’t start hearing about that until recently. In order for us to heal in the right way, all this information has to be brought forth and dealt with.”

As these conversations are being had, the community is also trying to move forward through diversity and inclusion. In the municipality of Princeton there has been a big push to diversify its staff, amongst all races, and in one-years’ time there has already been change.

In the chart below, you can see there have been additions to the number of Hispanic, Black and Asian municipal staff since summer 2020.

The number Hispanic and Black hires are greater than their representative populations in the town, however there is more room for growth. 16.9% of Princetonians are Asian and they make up only 2.8% of the municipal workforce.

Another thing that was highlighted when Princeton Perspectives wrote about racial justice one year ago was the small size of the Human Services department, which was prohibiting it from fully meeting the community’s needs. Last summer, the department was staffed by just one full time head of Human Services and one part-time administrative assistant. Today, Human Services now has 1 full-time Director, 1 full-time Outreach Coordinator, 1 part-time secretary and 2 Summer Youth Employment Program Coordinators (10 weeks of service) as well as 1 Bilingual Parent Liaison (10 hours per week).

Human Services works closely with the Princeton Police Department (PPD) when mental health and social services issues arise. When promoted to Chief of Police last year, Christopher Morgan sought a continued focus on community outreach.

“We spend a significant amount of time in the police department, through a dedicated training program, to ensure that our officers are receiving the best and most up to date training so that they are the best prepared to help the community. We’ve also reached out to other community leaders to participate in our training program and speak to our officers and we are looking to expand this concept,” states Morgan.

To best reflect the community it serves, department vacancies aim to be filled from a diverse pool of applicants. Today, the current contingent of officers exceeds its service population in diversity.

“We are proud of our diversity and hope it can be used as an example for other agencies. In our police department we look at diversity as more than just a person’s race, ethnicity or gender. We recognize other differences in people that may affect their perspectives and opinions, such as where they grew up, their family’s financial situation and the make-up of their own family members,” notes Chief Morgan.

When speaking to locals around town, there is general agreement that diversity and inclusion is the way forward. But some caution it has to be done carefully, so as not to create a so-called cancel culture and reverse discrimination. As we seek to develop a more reflective, understanding and enlightened society, the hope is that education will create change.

“None of us is to blame for this ‘smog’,” Smith-Carrington explains, alluding to work from researcher Beverly Daniel Tatum. “However, educators and students are all responsible – once made aware – for continuing to learn the truths about our nation and ourselves; combatting our biases; dismantling systems of oppression in and beyond education; and working in community with others determined to do the same.”

There is a general consensus that in this past year and through the developments of greater awareness, things have moved forward. Yet, there is agreement that while there has been progress, one year’s efforts do not solidify change. There is still more work to be done.

Editor’s Note

Spring is a time for blooming. Flowers do it naturally, but sometimes people need a bit of a push. As we move on from the dark days of winter and the pandemic, it is time for us all to decide what we need and go for it. If your life is on a good path, keep going forward but if you find yourself struggling more than you should, maybe we can help with this month’s optimistic look at Reinventions – Local Realities of Turning Lemons into Lemonade.

As we work to reinvent ourselves in this new era, Princeton Perspectives shares the stories of others that have done so. In this month’s Pulse of Princeton video segment, we hear from locals that have seized the opportunities before them and used them to propel forward. They are a great inspiration!

We also share with you the full story of one Princetonian who found herself out of work during the COVID shutdown. In Reinventing Myself with a Pandemic Pivot, our guest writer shares her journey into a new career, using tools from her long-time trade.

Sometimes the pandemic puts restrictions on us that we can’t easily change. But we can adapt. You Don’t Have Leave the Princeton Area to Experience the World enlightens us to how much we are surrounded by opportunities and inspirations from abroad, and we don’t need to wait for the borders to open to explore them.

Another aspect of reinventions is giving something a second life. Whether you’ve been clearing out your closets year-long or are just getting into your spring cleaning, you will find there are things you no longer need. Why not pass them along? We share many options in Repurpose Your Goods for the Benefit of our Community.

And that natural blooming I just spoke about, it will happen whether you observe it or not, but sometimes being there or helping it flourish has incredible rewards. In Participating in the Evolutions of Nature Helps Us Evolve, Too we learn about one of our local outdoor treasures, and the benefits it brings.

The year has been a long and trying one, and if you managed to reinvent yourself months ago, good for you! If you are still waiting to do so, there’s no time like the present.

In this difficult year of COVID, we’ve also dealt with other major blows. Biases, long standing amongst us, have been further perpetrated by some, no longer tolerated by others. In the May issue of Princeton Perspectives, we’ll take a look how at our local community has coped, historically and in the present, and what we can all do to move forward to a better place.

I know I am coming out of hibernation excited about the sunshine and warmer weather. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I’m excited to get there. We thank you for helping us celebrate our first birthday last month and are grateful that you enjoy our stories and pass them along, helping Princeton Perspectives continue to blossom and grow!

Pulse of Princeton: How have you reinvented yourself or given a belonging a new purpose?

We’d love to include YOUR perspective! If you’d like to contribute a video for next month’s Pulse of Princeton, click here and provide your name and email address to be contacted.