John Jay High School: One year later
A year ago, our community grappled with challenging issues surrounding changes at John Jay High School – issues of race, class, inequality, and community in public education. One year later, we sure haven’t solved those issues. But with the inspiring work of students, teachers, principals, parents, community groups, and volunteers, we are taking small but steady steps forward.
In recent decades, the John Jay campus has served mostly low-income students of color, and has not received the same attention or resources as many of our neighborhood public schools, serving more affluent kids. The opening of Millennium Brooklyn High School, a selective high school with an inclusive ASD/NEST program – something long-sought in our area by the Community Education Council and many local parents – pushed us to confront difficult questions. And it pushed me to commit to do more to provide support to the three existing schools at John Jay – the Secondary Schools for Journalism and Law, and the newly-renamed Park Slope Collegiate.
Over the past year, my office – in partnership with community organizations and activists, and of course most of all the principals, teachers, parents, and students – has been working to live up to that commitment to bring more support to all the schools at John Jay. I wanted to give you an update on some of this work … and to encourage you to get more involved.
New Mural at Park Slope Collegiate Many of the issues facing high school students are on display in a fantastic new mural on the fourth floor of the building: “College for All: Education is Our Right,” painted by students from Park Slope Collegiate and the Secondary School for Law. The mural highlights the challenges students face individually, and the ones that we face as a society – and is by-turns thoughtful, critical, and inspirational. I was honored to be able to support the mural through a “Cultural After School Adventure” (CASA) grant that allowed Park Slope Collegiate to work with artistic mentors from the wonderful Groundswell Community Mural Project. Students conducted interviews with their peers and families to develop the themes for the mural, which both explores the inequities that make it harder for many students to go to college and the strategies that students learn to succeed. You can see more pictures of the mural on my Facebook page.
More murals are planned for other parts of John Jay. I’m also pleased to provide a CASA grant to the Secondary School for Law, which allows them to offer diverse after-school programming.
Teen Battle Chef Teen Battle Chef is a new afterschool program we are organizing at John Jay that turns hungry students into expert chefs. Each week, teams of students compete to make the winning dish and along the way, pick up healthy cooking and teamwork skills - and build bonds with students from the other John Jay high schools. Teen Battle Chef (created by the not-for-profit Family Cook Productions) is made possible at John Jay by the hard work of Veronica Guzman, who is volunteering her time to support these young chefs, and with the support of New York Methodist Hospital.
The battles are open to the public (and are a lot of fun!). Hope you can come to one of them:
- Wednesday, February 29th
- Wednesday, March 7th
- Wednesday, March 14th
- Wednesday, March 21st
- Wednesday, March 28th
- Wednesday, April 4th (Training graduation and final battle)
All battles begin at 5 PM, and take place in the John Jay cafeteria, except the final battle, which will be at New York Methodist Hospital. Contact my office with any questions.
Get Involved Become a Tutor: Congregation Beth Elohim has been recruiting Park Slope residents to serve as volunteer tutors in the schools. They have already trained 17 volunteers (through the Learning Leaders program), and are planning to introduce more volunteers to the schools in the fall.
Help establish a law firm internship/partnership: The Secondary School for Law is looking for internships and partnerships with law firms and legal organizations, to expose their students to a wide variety of opportunities in legal fields.
Please email me at lander [at] council [dot] nyc [dot] gov if you can support John Jay students by being at tutor, have ideas for a law firm partnership, or other thoughts on what we can do together to support the schools at John Jay.
Let’s be honest: we still have a long way to go here. We aren’t going to achieve educational justice or great schools through murals, healthy cooking, after-school programs, or tutoring. And the support we’ve been able to provide pales in comparison to the hard work every day of the students, teachers, and administrators in each school, in many cases against tough odds.
But partnership matters. Our community can help students at these schools succeed, and we have a responsibility to do so. Let’s keep working hard to make it real.