For the past two weeks, Wexler-Grant has been home to the Shubert Theatre's MOVIN’ Program featuring Pilobolus Dance Theatre members. Pilobolus is a modern dance company that was formed in 1971 by two men, neither of whom were actually dancers. The company has become known for its imaginative dance movements and shapes through improvisation and athletic movement, as opposed to traditional dance steps.
Friday, March 2, Barnard School had a Pep Rally featuring the Yale Precision Marching Band and Xtreme Impact! Students in grade 3 through 8 gathered to sing and dance to Yale Precision Band's rendition of "Party Rock", as well as view impossible feats of strength by the men of Xtreme Impact! These feats included blowing up a hot water pack to the point of popping, bending a metal horseshoe into the shape of a heart, tearing a thousand page phone book in half, lifting two students over his head as they held on to a metal rod, bending an iron skillet into a taco, and breaking 5 cement bricks in half with his bare arm!
The Augusta Lewis Troup School gave students and parents many educational opportunities during the African American History Month of February. The second floor foyer was transformed into a museum exhibit, complete with posters, biographical descriptions, a timeline, and beautiful images. The displayed figures ranged from Rosa Parks to Colin Powell; from Sojourner Truth to Bill Cosby; from Shaka, the historic African king of the Zulus, to Bill Costen, the first African-American hot-air balloon pilot who is currently based out of Hartford. Troup classes came down throughout the month to read and learn about many meaningful figures of the past and present. These efforts were arranged by a Community Volunteer who also serves on the United Way Volunteer Leadership Board of Directors, and she is in the picture above! Many volunteers assisted with set up by donating display items and arranging them beautifully. This display gave students, teachers, visitors, and parents the opportunity to learn much about African American figures througout history. It showed the present successes and future opportunities for individuals as well, demonstrating how this knowledge of strong figures of the past can enable us to move ahead in the future.
I firmly believe in the power of experiential education, the potential to grow from any experience. At my previous job in New Hampshire, we taught a learning cycle to every participating group. This learning cycle begins when you have an experience. Next, you reflect on that experience. During this reflection, you have a “BFO,” a blinding flash of the obvious, as we called it. Something clicks in your mind. You then transfer this newly discovered truth to other aspects of your life or other fields of study.
Recently, the New Haven Public Schools marked their 100th day of school for this academic year. This year, one of the Boost! schools, Clinton Avenue School, decided to celerate in style. Students from Kindergaten to 5th grade participated in fun arts and crafts projects in order to recognize the achievement of reaching their 100th day of school. I was able to take a peek inside the classrooms to see what the students had created.
I'm always excited to see my city getting kudos in the national press - but yesterday's op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times really made my week (ok, maybe even my month). Mr. Kristof praised New Haven for its groundbreaking collaborative effort in working in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers. He said “New Haven has arguably become ground zero for school reform in America.” And you know what – he’s right.
Here in New Haven we've been fully immersed in the School Change Initiative for the past two years - and the strategies our city has employed have become our "new normal." The effort has three main themes: creating a diverse portfolio schools, employing the very best teachers and administrators in the country, and bringing the community together to support students in their out-of-school lives so that they will be ready to learn when they come to school and equipped to succeed in college and work when they leave high school. These strategies have become embedded in our culture - words that we didn't have in our vocabulary two years ago are now part of the community vernacular - climate surveys, tiering, turnaround schools, Boost!, Promise and TEVAL. We’ve accepted it, we expect it, we complain about it, we live it.
When I was 21 years old, I realized there is so much more in the world outside the little bubble I lived in. I traveled on an international excursion to Tanzania, Africa to spend a month teaching children living in poverty. I worked with 200 primary school-aged students, 65 of which were HIV positive. The poverty was rampant in the village of Moshi, and necessities were hard to come by. Getting past the language barrier, and the stigma of HIV was a difficult task. My month volunteering was one of the most stressful, frustrating, amazing experiences of my life, to say the least. Of course I traveled halfway across the world hoping to make a huge impact on every child I came in contact with yet I realized if you make one child smile, that in itself is an impact. The work I completed there left a longer lasting impact on myself, and I learned so much about myself; I changed forever.
|On January 26, 2012, United Way was invited to present on the Boost! initiative at the first meeting of the Interagency Council on Ending the Achievement Gap. The Council wanted to learn more about the Boost! model of providing wraparound services for children and youth so that they are more successful in school. The Council, chaired by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Commissioner Stefan Pryor from the State Department of Education, applauded the work of Boost! and recognized the importance of: using data to make thoughtful decisions about students' needs; connecting the schools and community-based programs so that they are working together to benefit children; and having an entity like United Way to serve as the "glue" to help ensure this coordination and strategic thinking happen.|
United Way's Jennifer Heath, Executive Vice President and Laoise King, Vice President for Education took turns explaining how Boost! works and that it shares the goals of the New Haven School Change Initiative: to close the achievement gap with the state, cut the dropout rate in half, and ensure that every graduating student has the preparation and resources they need to succeed in college.
Watch full video clip of the Boost! presentation!
The Augusta Lewis Troup School hosted a CMT workshop for parents last Thursday evening entitled “You’re the Greatest!!!! Parents’ Night!” The Troup School is one of the five Boost! schools in New Haven, and this night exemplified the parent engagement efforts. The night began with a delicious dinner downstairs in the cafeteria of chicken wings, pasta, and celery. After much chatting, everyone migrated upstairs to the auditorium to hear the presentations. The Principal opened with a grand welcome and introduced the raffle that would occur throughout the evening. They gave raffle tickets to every parent and child in the room that night, and read off a few numbers between each speaker. These prizes brought anticipation and excitement to the room throughout the evening.