When Newark Mayor Cory Booker's maternal grandmother could no longer care for her son, the community pitched in.
When it came time for Booker's father to go to college, people donated dollar bills until they raised enough for the first semester's tuition.
Booker's parents were among the first African American employees at IBM and later struggled against discrimination to purchase a home in Harrington Park, Bergen County, where Booker grew up.
"My father has a way of talking, he says 'Son, you drink deeply from wells of freedom and opportunity that you did not dig,'" Booker told students at John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton on Tuesday.
Whether it's the civil rights movement, the women's movement or working for the right to vote, all of us today drink deeply from wells of freedom and opportunity that we did not dig, Booker said.
We are products of what Booker calls a "conspiracy of love," thanks to those who achieved extraordinary things by the simple decisions they made every day.
Students at John Witherspoon know that simple decisions that can inspire change.
This month, students have been focused on the "little things," Principal Jason Burr said. That means remembering to say thank you, spending quality time with families, smiling at someone new in the hallway.
From 8th graders who hope to fund a no-kill animal shelters and organize a lacrosse tournament to raise money and awareness about brain cancer to a food drive/fundraiser, service has become an everyday message at the middle school. And students demonstrate that commitment both during school and outside of school, Burr said.
One project involved selling hand prints, and these will be transformed into a work of art that will be displayed at the school.
"This will be a reminder of how we can change the world with our bare hands," student Ishaan Bhatt said.