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SCO Goes Back to School

September 4, 2014 / Independent Youth News

There was laughter, a few tears and a lot of excitement this week across SCO Family of Services’ schools in New York City and on Long Island as some 1,300 children began a new academic year at SCO’s four Early Childhood Education Centers, three transfer high schools in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and five residential and special education schools in Queens, the Bronx and on Long Island.

In East Elmhurst, Queens, mothers and fathers walked hand in hand with their children as they headed to the Jerome Hardeman Early Childhood Center. Dressed in their best back-to-school clothes, children posed as their parents took photos. Teachers and other staff greeted everyone as they entered the school, and every child was given a slip of paper with their name on it – even if some of the students didn’t precisely know which way was right side up!

At Morris Koppelman Early Childhood Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the school was full of parents and grandparents meeting the teachers and helping the preschoolers make a comfortable transition. “Our goals for this year are to instill a love of learning and a love of school in all our children, and we want our parents to be involved,” said Chanda Hill, Assistant Executive Director of SCO’s early childhood programs. “We want to go beyond parent involvement to family engagement – to extend the classroom to the home, to make sure our kids are continuing to read and learn at home.”

At East Brooklyn Community High School in Canarsie, excited chatter and warm reunions filled the halls as students arrived for their first day. Posing for photos with their friends, students joked with Advocate Counselors. Staff greeted students by name, receiving a number of hugs and high-fives in return before ushering students off to class, where they would spend the first day in small workgroups, participating in orientation activities to kick off the year.

At Westbrook Preparatory School in Westbury, Long Island, the first residential New York State Regents junior/senior high school for students with Asperger syndrome, high functioning autism and related conditions, the year’s theme is growth. That didn’t seem a problem for many of the excited students, including one who jumped up and down with excitement about starting trigonometry, and another who was looking forward to starting Japanese (having already mastered two languages through online courses). Principal Paul Walia, who just began his tenure at Westbrook, has a full list of goals, which includes: increasing parental collaboration, integrating the Common Core curriculum within the student-centered learning framework, making technology a larger component of school life and, of course, doing everything possible to ensure positive outcomes for all students.

For SCO’s 1042 children ages 0-21 living in foster care in NYC and on Long Island, SCO’s Director of Education and Permanency Support, Stephen Hanmer is focused on supporting every child’s education and minimizing the disruption to school that can be caused by living in foster care. He is also helping eighth graders apply to high school, ensuring that students in special education get all the services they require, working to arrange job training opportunities for teens, and helping students who are applying to college through the application and financial aid process. SCO is also helping to support 29 young people in care who are currently attending college.

At PS/IS 41 and the East New York Middle School of Excellence, where SCO is providing after-school programs, middle school students will have the chance to paint original murals with the guidance of the artists at Groundswell, a not-for-profit that works with NYC public school students.

It was by all accounts a sweet beginning to the year – especially so at transfer school Bronx Arena High School, where students will be greeted with a special treat: an ice-cream sundae reception for new students and their families/guardians with Bronx Arena staff. And after the ice-cream’s all gone? “We’ll be opening with full days of getting to work,” said Program Director Anne Zincke.


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