Say Yes To Education: 5 Harlem Kindergarden Classes Get Free School ,Extra Tutoring, and College
Is this an answer or THE amswer to the question ""Can public schools work?" Also, what about the rest?
400 Kindergartners Get a Key to the Future
By ELISSA GOOTMAN, NY TIMES, September 30, 2004
Tiffany Hedges, 24, arrived at the Apollo Theater yesterday morning expecting some kind of education announcement. What she learned was that her son Tyrell, 5, would be one of 400 Harlem kindergartners to receive a free college education.
"I just don't know what to say right now," she gasped, fighting tears.
Tyrell's school, Public School 161, was one of five Harlem elementary schools whose entire kindergarten classes will be the next beneficiaries of Say Yes to Education, a program aimed at helping children in poor urban neighborhoods overcome the obstacles to high school graduation and higher education.
Students at the schools - Public Schools 57, 83, 161, 180 and 182 - will get extra help, including tutoring and special summer school programs, throughout the next 13 years. If all goes well, they will have college fully paid for, wherever they get in.
The announcement was made by George Weiss, a Hartford money manager who has created similar, although smaller, programs in Hartford, Philadelphia and East Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Weiss has pledged $20 million to the Harlem program, which is expected to cost $50 million, and is trying to raise the rest.
"What we're trying to do is raise the expectations of a whole school, and working together we can level the playing field," Mr. Weiss told the kindergartners, parents and teachers who gathered at the Apollo after being told by their principals only that there would be an important educational announcement.
Marisol Burgos, 26, could not stop smiling as she praised Mr. Weiss: "God bless him so much. I'm going to take advantage of everything."
Others parents did not quite understand the announcement. Synofia Jacobs, 21, was confused by the fact that when the announcement was over, everyone seated onstage - including Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott and the president of Teachers College at Columbia University, Arthur Levine - threw footballs into the audience.
"I just have one question," said Ms. Jacobs, whose niece Deshauna Richardson, 5, goes to P.S. 57. "Who is getting the college tuition? Only the kids that had the footballs?"
The children were more confused.
Amir Lino, 4, who goes to P.S. 57, liked the part when the footballs were thrown but insisted that Mr. Weiss had not mentioned college.
"He said something about P.S. 57!" he proclaimed.
Onasis Mejia, a kindergartner at another school, remembered the part about toys: the ones Mr. Weiss said that Hasbro had offered to donate to the selected children.
Other companies have offered donations in kind - I.B.M. offered computer labs; the law firm of Bingham McCutchen offered free legal services to the children's families for 15 years; and Harlem Hospital Center offered to provide all health care services - but so far, the money has not poured in. Mr. Weiss said he had raised about $160,000.
Each successive Say Yes to Education program has started with younger children and included more support services. In Harlem, siblings of the Say Yes children will be eligible for smaller college scholarships, and their parents will be eligible for continuing education programs and scholarships. An extra reading teacher and social worker will be placed in each of the five schools.
Harlem was selected because of its high dropout rates and proximity to Teachers College at Columbia University, which is helping. But the five schools were selected for their strengths. Eleven schools were invited to apply, and 10 responded.
Dr. Jacqueline Ancess, a member of the selection committee, said the goal was to choose stable schools with strong, innovative principals.
"Say Yes is adding some resources to a school that already has a foundation," said Dr. Ancess, a co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching at Teachers College. "This is not a program that has the intention to go into a school that is in very desperate straits and turn it around."