Educational Options Are Essential for Our Children
By Matilda Raffa Cuomo & Marnie Ponce-White
recent aggressive budget cuts continue to affect the infrastructure
of our school system on both administrative and academic levels.
As educators, the increase in accountability and the emphasis
on standardized math and reading scores to measure the success
of the quality of education in the New York City public schools
leave little, if any room, for the arts, sciences and human development.
Who then is responsible for providing our children with a well-rounded
education if day-school educators are consumed with the monumental
task of making sure their students score well on standardized
Traditionally, the after-school setting was a place for children
to participate in a variety of activities that they might not
have had an opportunity to experience if they were home. Community-based
organizations that were at the forefront of after-school planning
like the YMCAs of Greater New York gained popularity from their
basketball camps, hockey leagues and arts and crafts classes.
However, today after-school activities have become essential to
complete the necessary work of education that is not done in the
day-school classroom. One important question remains: how can
we collaborate to utilize the needed after-school programs while
assuring maximum efficiency and competence in the instructors?
Bank Street College has taken an active role in creating a series
of workshops for after-school educators designed to help meet
the needs of the after-school programs. Reflecting on the extensive
work that Bank Street’s Department of Continuing Education has
done with after-school programs through New York City over the
past three years, three basic content areas were identified as
needing development: curricula, integration of the arts, and creating
effective learning environments for the diverse population that
the programs serve.
Workshops offered by Bank Street College’s Division of Continuing
Education that integrate the arts and sciences include: “Music
Therapy,” “Woodworking,” “Instrument Making and Playing,” and
“Architecture,” to name a few. The workshop for “Literacy and
the Arts” in two sessions explores the wonderful world of books,
poetry, and the arts for Elementary, Middle, and High School students.
Participants will learn how to identify and make content connections
with reading, writing, and the arts; and learn how to design a
literacy curriculum that integrates music, movement, sculpture,
drawing, and architecture to help support and enhance a student’s
Albert Einstein said it best, “The purpose of education is to
awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” That is the
ultimate challenge that educators, policy makers, parents, and
community members must confront head on when addressing the needs
of our children.
Bank Street College is proud of the support it is providing, as
are many other not-for-profit organizations that make their own
specific contribution to the daunting effort to meet the educational
challenges faced by today’s children. One of them is Mentoring
USA. Mentoring USA’s specific emphasis is providing children at-risk
with one-to-one mentoring for a one-year commitment as mentors
by devoted, trained adults who complement the parental presence
in the child’s life and are a great support for the teacher. In
addition to assisting the child with the regular day-school curriculum,
Mentoring USA’s mentors and their mentees participate in a whole
range of after-school activities designed to supplement their
classroom studies, including reading books of ethnic heroes learning
about other cultures in order to understand and deal with global
diversity and resolving conflict resolution.Thanks to Mentoring
USA’s BRAVE Juliana program (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education)
all the mentors are retrained to help our youth gain an appreciation
of their own heritage and respect for people around them.
Often these activities involve cooperative efforts with partner
institutions like Strang Cancer Prevention Center’s initiative,
“Healthy Children Healthy Futures.” Mentoring USA will have programs
in all five boroughs dealing with the problem of obesity and primary
health care. The Dare to Dream component of Mentoring USA provides
exposure for our mentees to learn about future careers, and the
Juliana Valentine McCourt Children’s Education Fund fosters harmony,
peace, and understanding among children of the world. Communities
in Schools assists Mentoring USA to expand our volunteer recruitment
of mentors for at-risk students.
The special value of the Mentoring USA approach is the bond developed
by the one-to-one relationship unavailable in most classrooms
but essential to Mentoring USA mentoring. Nothing helps educate
a child more or better than the sure knowledge that his mentor’s
only purpose in the relationship is to guide and counsel his mentee.
No wonder mentoring is considered by General Colin Powell who
led America’s Promise, and other great Americans, to be one of
the most effective support mechanisms for children at-risk in
Cuomo is Founder and Chair, Mentoring USA. (www.mentoringusa.org,
Marnie Ponce White is the Coordinator of Professional Development
for After-School Educators, Division of Continuing Education,
Bank Street College of Education.
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