Pleasantville School District has had a tumultuous year, but the students at the high school here aren’t fazed.

In an end-of-year interview, Pleasantville students who participated The Press’ “Beyond These Halls” series this year said they are looking to the future.

“I had a fun year, I matured a lot. I enjoyed football. I’m just ready for the real world now,” said recent grad Brian Stalworth.

Brian, who is attending Bloomfield College in the fall to study business, was one of six students featured in the series, along with his Pleasantville Greyhounds football teammate, senior Akeem Walker.

Senior Latrell Townsend, the son of the district’s athletic director Stephen Townsend and an avid basketball player, junior Cynthia Blackman, and Jr. ROTC members Gloria Janit SalazarRamirez, a junior, and Michekender “Miche” Marcelin, a sophomore, also participated.

But just a few weeks into the school year, Cynthia transferred to Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts after a fight with a classmate and eventually made her way to another high school in North Jersey.

Midway through the year, The Press introduced Jamera Corbitt, an outgoing junior who overcame homelessness and her mother’s illness with support from a large and loving family.

Gloria and Miche declined to participate in the final interview for personal reasons, but two others agreed to take part: seniors Jacob Valeus and Priscilla Montero.

How was your year?

“I had a fun year. I matured a lot. I enjoyed football. I’m just ready for the real world now,” Brian said.

One of his best memories of the year was the 2018 Greyhounds football season, which ended in the semifinals with a loss to Haddonfield.

Priscilla said she enjoyed her time working for the CARE summer program and interning in the school’s main office, where she got to meet the secretaries and learn about their jobs. She said much has changed about her since she was a freshman at Pleasantville High School.

“At first, when I came as a freshman, I was really nervous, and I didn’t want to speak with anybody, and now I’m a senior and I just speak with everybody. I got to adapt to it,” Priscilla said.

Akeem said a highlight of the year was committing to college to play football.

“It’s gotten better, more fun. Learned a lot more, experienced a lot more, and it’s just been productive,” said the 17-year-old who will attend Susquehanna University, a Division III school in Pennsylvania.

Jacob said he was surprised by how fast it went.

“It was actually fun. I enjoyed my last year of high school and I’m just ready for college now,” he said.

For Jamera, she learned a lot and said her favorite part was prom.

“It was lit,” she said.

Latrell agreed that his best memory from the year was prom, and also basketball season.

“We went a lot further than most people expected,” he said.(tncms-asset)7bfc2112-f4d9-11e8-87e0-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

What are your plans for next year?

Jacob is heading to Claflin University in South Carolina in the fall where he plans to major in marketing and play basketball on an athletic scholarship. He said he hadn’t done much research on college, but was waiting to see who would recruit him.

Akeem, who is going to study business or engineering, said the main factor in deciding where to go to school was where he could continue to play football.

For Brian, it was about money.

“I wanted to make sure I got the most money I could from the school,” he said.

Jamera, 17, won’t be heading to college for another year but plans to attend Morgan State University in Maryland because it has the fields she wants to study.

Latrell will attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. to study computer science and finding a school with his major was important. He is focused on not having debt and applied for many scholarships. He received 10 totaling $7,000.

“It makes me feel really happy because now I won’t have to pay so much money going into college,” he said.

What are your plans this summer?

Most of the students are planning to work throughout the summer. Akeem is planning to train for college football and is visiting family in Jamaica, a graduation present from his family. This will be his first visit in four years.

Jacob said he will continue to work at the Nike store in Atlantic City and prepare for college. Brian is looking for a summer job, and Jamera said she will make time to hang out with friends between her work schedule.

Latrell and Priscilla will both be completing summer internships. Priscilla, who will attend Atlantic Cape Community College in the fall, was offered to intern in her desired field, X-ray technician, at Shore Medical Center. Latrell was offered an aviation internship at the William J. Hughes Technical Center.

What do you want other students to know about Pleasantville?

“It’s a great school,” Akeem said, encouraging students to attend.

“It’s not just a school for sports, but the teachers are very nice and try to guide you as best they can,” Latrell added.

Priscilla said that in the past, their school had a bad reputation because there was a lot of fighting by the students.

“And now it’s not like that,” she said.

The students said they hope in the future that district focuses on the students’ needs, providing extra tutoring and academic help after school.

“I just hope the school gives them whatever they need to help them for the future,” Jacob said.

Are you ready for college?

“For me it’s going to be a learning experience,” Jacob said.

He said he plans to “grind it out,” but knows it will be rough.

Latrell said he is not extremely outgoing, so meeting new people might be a challenge. He is also aware of the self-motivation it takes to succeed in college.

“I feel like going to college is just a learning process of being more responsible for yourself, you have to learn how to schedule your time,” Latrell said.

Brian said he knows he will be challenged to stay on top of his school work so he plans to check in with his parents and his former coach and guidance counselor, Chris Sacco, to keep focused.

Akeem has a similar plan.

“I’m going to try to keep in touch with my parents as much as I can and people back home, and think about what I’m there for and that’s just to make it out successfully,” he said.

The state of New Jersey recently added a second state monitor to the district and the superintendent resigned amid the budget woes. How much are you paying attention to the district’s administrative issues?

Despite the state’s widening intervention into Pleasantville’s administration, the students are generally unaware of what happens on the “third floor,” a term used in the district to refer to the administrative office because of its location on the third floor of the middle school.

“I try to stay out of it,” Akeem said. “I just worry about what’s going on in the school.”

The students say they are happy with their education and are focused on the future.

For Latrell, it’s a bit harder to escape as it directly involves his father, whose job was again on the line this year as the district faced a reduction in force and large budget cuts. Latrell said he picks up information from the teachers, but his dad doesn’t talk about it.

“Me personally, I’m a little frustrated,” Latrell said. “He’s just pulling through. Whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to do his best.”

(At a meeting after this interview, the board voted to keep Stephen Townsend as athletic director).

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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