A celebration, of youth, community, and culture, brought together educators and volunteers on Thursday, May 23, to applaud students who had completed 10-week apprenticeships, all thanks to Citizen Schools, a non-profit that partners with middle schools across the United States to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities.
During an afternoon of steel pan music, dance, and presentation of awards, the International CARNA-Wow occasion at the Urban Assembly Unison School in Brooklyn, with a large percentage of students of Caribbean descent, came alive with excitement during the celebration.
Its mission: educating children and strengthening communities Citizen Schools, give students an opportunity to expand their knowledge in sessions, like “Girls In Charge,” “Lego Robotics,” “Good Media Literacy,” “Writing Academy,” “I Scream you Scream,” “Making Proud Choices,” Math Mysteries,” and “Ultimate Frisbee.”
Executive Director of Citizen Schools, NY, Nadia K. Selby, a Vincentian-American, said that at the end of the semester long apprenticeships — (10-week hands on engaging courses with volunteers) — students present what they have learned in something Citizen Schools titled: Wow!
“Each WOW, she said, has a theme: This year’s was CARNA WOW! “We use CARNA as an acronym for Celebration of Youth, Community and Culture.”
She added that Unison School is a melting pot of many ethnicities and the organization felt it was important for everyone to feel represented throughout the event.
Selby is passionate about the work, Citizen Schools do to engage companies such as Google, Alliance Berstein Holding, Amazon and others, which urge their employees to volunteer their skills to educate communities’ youth.
“Students are passionate about the programs because this work is just as important. It’s hard to understand the math they are learning, and what it looks like in real life, unless you start building, and doing,” she explained.
Selby applauded Harry Bullen, a software engineer with Google, who has volunteered his time with Citizen Schools, for 11 semesters. His 90-minute sessions, once a week, focuses on robotics.
From science and technology, to art and culture, Citizen Schools, that have been in existence for more than 25 years nation-wide, give students an opportunity of a lifetime.
Principal, Emily Paige, who has led the school for six years, said every year the school gets an entire second shift of teachers to support the after school apprenticeships. “The esteemed professions, such as a food engineer, and other cool projects, like building robots, also create strong relationships,” she said.
“The opening ceremony says it all. There was love happiness, and energy exhibited by the students,” said Paige.
Guyanese-born Karen Watts, executive superintendent of Brooklyn North, Board of Education, said she was happy to see the wonderful work the school was doing, noting that the school now has a Hydroponic Farm, and a STEAM program, where students are able to have enriching STEAM and STEM experiences, to help them build their skills for future employment, and future success, post secondary studies.
First Deputy Chancellor at NYC Department of Education, Cheryl Watson-Harris, is thankful, for the partnerships and the opportunity and exposure that partners, such as Citizen Schools offer students.
“One of the things that was most impressive is a young man who was modeling what he had learned with robotics, and how this was something he was not necessarily exposed to before. This planted seeds, and opened up an entire industry that maybe he didn’t know about before. For this, he received a scholarship to take part in the NASA program. He was also accepted into the STEAM program for students who excel at math,” said Watson Harris.
“He now has a whole future ahead of him in the STEAM field, that he may not have known before, if he hadn’t this opportunity and exposure, in the traditional school system. We try to do our very best, but we also know we cannot do this alone, we have to have many partners who can bring something else to the table,” said Chancellor Watson-Harris, adding, “I have been a long time fan of the Citizen Schools program.”
The once a week, 10-week apprenticeship has been a rewarding one for software engineer, Harry Bullen, who leaves his job at Google in Chelsea, Manhattan, and bikes over to the school to teach students the art of building strong structures, and robotics, because he wants to give back to the community. This initiative has the full support of web search engine, Google, whose management encourages employees to volunteer their skills to assist community students.