A Celebration of New Visions Community Partnerships

“In meeting these young people, I have the hope and belief that they will make it a better world for their children and grandchildren” - Sami Steigmann (pictured to the left with Emanuel Dufour of AMSII), Holocaust Survivor and New Visions Charter School community partner

Last month, New Visions Charter High School students, teachers, and community members came together to celebrate the partnerships and the outstanding collaborative projects they have undertaken together over the past school year.

Sami Steigmann was recognized for his commitment to teaching students to be, in his words, “strong people with very strong core values.”  As a Holocaust survivor, he exposes students to critical life lessons and helps them to put their own struggles in perspective by teaching history and mentoring students at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science (AMSII).

Mr. Steigmann has dedicated his life to reaching out to young people in schools to “help them become responsible people and to teach them about hope and to never give up.”

Mr. Steigmann’s story might have been unique in its historical significance, but all of the community partners on hand shared a common dedication to inspiring and mentoring students to higher levels of achievement.  Jennie Soler-McIntosh, director of community engagement, summed up this shared purpose by calling their work “a testament to the power of what we can do when we collectively come together and work towards furthering our mission to make sure our young people graduate and become contributing members of society.”

The event featured six presentations on the interweaving roles of communities and schools.

Communities in Schools

Equal opportunity, equity, and social justice were pervasive themes at the celebration. Students and faculty from New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science III (AMSIII) and New Visions Charter High School for Humanities III (HUMIII)  showcased ”Girls for Gender Equity,” a collaborative project that helps expose young male and female students from both schools to a range of social justice issues such as race, class, education reform, police and community relations, and gender equity and then encourages mentoring of middle school students on these topics.

Youth development was another theme of the night.  AMS III students presented their experience with a job shadowing program organized by Professor Joycelyn Dillon, chair of the college’s dental hygiene department and a member of the New Visions Brooklyn Community Advisory Board, operated through the New York City College of Technology's Department of Dental Hygiene.

Continuing this theme, HUMIII faculty and students collaborated with Quincy Koffel, the executive director of Educational Alchemy, to present the Girls in Real Life Situations (GIRLS) group (pictured to the right), enabling students to connect with and learn from women who have overcome significant personal obstacles.  At a “Breakfast with Sistah Champions” event, these resilient women filled out a health survey that the students designed in advance, and the results were then incorporated into an theater script that was developed and brought to life by the students as they produced, starred in, and helped film “In Her Skin.”

The next two partner organization presentations focused on building student interest in science through exposure to real world applications.  Students and faculty from AMS II shared a presentation on their partnership with Rocking the Boat, a non-profit that teaches students from the South Bronx to “learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways.” Zach Stellato, a AMS II Living Environment teacher who leads the program, said he “wanted to support students in a Regents based course that is more authentic” in application.  The students took river samples, learned about concepts like PH balance, participated in cleanup efforts, and even wrote op-eds, one of which was published in a local newspaper.

New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science (AMS) partnered with Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, an associate professor with Columbia University, whose work investigating communicable diseases like the flu has been integrated in to the school’s 9th grade science curriculum through a collaboration with lead teacher Dani Sugerman.  A number of students participated in Dr. Shaman’s influenza research study by recording daily journals on how they felt and through periodical influenza checkups to see if they had been exposed to the virus.  The findings from the checkups were then compared with the students' perceived symptoms.  In addition, all of the students created Public Service print ads to increase awareness around flu prevention.

Learning Outside of the Classroom

Recognizing the need for students to experience authentic college-level curricula, this year, New Visions Charter High Schools partnered with the American Museum of Natural History as well as Parsons School of Design to offer elective courses for its students.  Kate Miller, senior manager of curriculum for secondary school programs at the American Museum of Natural History, gave insight into a conservation biology course, which aimed to get students excited about science and science-related careers while developing core knowledge.  Students learned about a range of concepts such as food chains and ecosystems through exposure to the vast exhibits and numerous researchers available at the museum.  Student feedback affirmed that the learning environment was critical for spurring an interest in science and encouraged conservation in everyday behaviors, such as reducing water use.

A Creative Technology class at Parsons School of Design, which New Visions instructional coach John Salazar developed in collaboration with Professor Ryan Raffa, emphasized hands-on technology learning.  Noelia Bautista (pictured to the left), a sophomore from New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities II, showed off her creation, a digital music box containing a number of wires that produce different musical sounds when touched.  The device is wired to communicate with a computer using Ardunio code that Noelia developed.  The Director of Pre-College at Parsons School of Design, Jessica Walker, described the relationship as valuable on both ends—“We really wanted to highlight our design and creative technology programs and we find that young people might not have access to knowing a lot about creative technology, so we thought it was a really good match” with New Visions students.

Expanded Partnerships

What’s next for these partnerships?  The American Museum of Natural History course has been such a success that the museum plans to expand its offerings for New Visions next year, including an archaeology class that will include an excavation site in Central Park. 

Advice for potential future community partners?  Jessica Walker from Parsons School of Design strongly feels that, “for people considering a partnership...it’s really great to go with it and make it happen because it’s pretty seamless and easy.”  While the community partner engagement process may be relatively easy, the celebratory event showed that the student impact is huge.

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