Showing our Scholars the Power of ‘Yes’

Meet Arisleidy Fuchu! A founding member of our East Harlem Scholars Academy High School, Fuchu manages its Restorative Justice Program —  which puts the school’s philosophy of “Love. Liberate. Heal” into practice. The concept of restorative justice may be new to some, so Fuchu breaks it down in the final installment of our Latinx Heritage Month blog series: 

“Restorative justice invites everyone to develop a shared understanding of both the root causes and the effects of a conflict. It seeks to address the needs of those who have been harmed, while encouraging those who have caused harm to take responsibility,” she explains. While schools traditionally have handled “bad” behavior with some type of punishment, “restorative justice emphasizes the capacity of all people for healing, growth, and transformation through accountability, self-determination, and interconnection.”

Fuchu says her identity as an Afro-Dominican woman informs her work. “I grew up often hearing the word ‘no,’ with very few ‘yeses.’ My accent was too thick for debate class in 4th grade. Since Spanish was my first language, it was assumed I could not produce an essay on par with my peers. But I had parents who advocated and fought for me and my siblings to be treated with respect. They taught me the power of ‘yes’ without making apologies for who I am.” 

And this is exactly what she wants for her students. “I want our scholars to know the power of ‘yes,’ of being loved for who they are. The power of forgiveness, compassion, humility, strength. The power of visibility and knowledge, to stand in their truth and light.” 

Fuchu’s goal is to create a space where students feel heard and respected. “I think it is important to remember that these are kids and they will make mistakes. The idea is to always have a reset — a new beginning where they are not judged by their past, but by how they choose to show up.” If Love. Liberate. Heal is at the core of our anti-racism framework, she notes, it is up to the school leadership to demonstrate what this looks, feels and sounds like. 

It is in doing so, says Fuchu, that we can challenge the status quo. “We cannot educate from a place of mediocrity,” she says. “We have to believe that our scholars deserve more because of their humanity. No one has the right to take that from them.” If education is our liberating tool, she says, “then it is the way to uphold, uplift and love the people they choose to be.” 

For her, this parallels the significance of Latinx Heritage Month. “It is a celebration of my heritage, my people, our struggle. It is a recognition of the historical triumphs and obstacles we have overcome as people. … It is a celebration of the beauty, the complexity — an honoring of nuestra gente y cultural.” 

She adds, “I was raised with a deep pride in my culture and my people. In Latinx culture there is a song for everything — we are people who love and thrive through the rhythm of our music. There is nothing like mami’s sazon to make me happy.  I bring to work my love of music, my warmth, my laughter, my deep sense of social justice — all to ensure that our scholars are respected and loved.”

 

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Efrain Guerrero: ‘I Try to Live My Life Full of Gratitude’

Efrain Guerrero has been Chief of Staff at East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) for over three years, partnering with stakeholders across the community to advance our strategic plan. He began his foray into education as Achievement First Bushwick Middle School’s Director of School Operations.

As part of EHTP’s Latinx Heritage Month blog series, we caught up with Guererro to learn why he is passionate about working in education.

It turns out that his educational success wasn’t necessarily preordained. “My parents both grew up poor, in a rural part of Mexico, my mom with 10 siblings and my dad with 12,” he explains. “Neither of them finished high school. My dad dropped out as early as middle school to find work so he could help support his family.”

Guerrero and his three siblings were born and raised in Long Beach, California, his parents having decided that moving to the U.S. would provide a better future. “I can’t imagine the courage that it took for them to leave their home and family in Mexico, leaving behind everything and everyone they knew and loved.” Guerrero adds, “I try to live my life full of gratitude for the sacrifices they made.”

While Guerrero earned degrees at Harvard University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, attaining education proved to be more elusive for his siblings. He says that only recently, because of the anti-racism professional development at EHTP, has he been able to reflect on what happened to his siblings and other teenagers in his Latinx community who never graduated from high school.

“Our parents did not realize that they were moving to a country that was founded on racism and white supremacy. …they didn’t know about the achievement gap, about the vast inequality in life outcomes that exists between people of color and white people. They didn’t come prepared knowing that the forces of institutional racism and the negative effects of living in poverty in this country would be nearly impossible to overcome.”

What made the difference for Guerrero? “I was in middle school when I first came to the realization that I was gay, and I knew that my parents, having grown up Catholic and who were very traditional, would never fully accept me. Being good at school was a way to overcompensate for this lack of acceptance and win my parents approval.”

Guerrero went on to become his high school valedictorian, graduating with a 4.0 GPA, having passed 9 AP exams, rocking his SAT’s and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook. When he applied early admission to Harvard, he got in.

Fast forward, and his expansive career has included market research at Proctor & Gamble and fundraising for SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). He lives with his partner James and their pug Mrs. Carter (named for — and sometimes dressed up as — Beyoncé), and is the biological father of two girls who live with their moms in Philadelphia. While it is a full and satisfying life, Guerrero remains driven by his passion for educational equality:

“I wish that all Latinx and black parents could have that sense of certainty about their kids’ futures. They should have that same sense of entitlement to the American Dream that white parents and their children enjoy. But the reality is that for immigrants and people of color in this country, the American Dream is a myth. Working hard, paying taxes, and doing the right thing every day is not enough for people of color to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’.”

Reflecting on the importance of Latinx Heritage Month, Guerrero makes this assertion: “This racial inequality and injustice is something that we can’t continue to tolerate.”

 

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‘I Want Children to Feel Invincible’

As we kick off our Latinx Heritage Month blog series, we’re shining a light on Lissette Zurita! Part of our current cohort of East Harlem Teaching Residents, Lissette divides her time between EHTP, our Scholars Elementary II charter school, our elementary after-school program and the Hunter College School of Education. Though very busy, we were able to grab this East Harlem native to learn how we had the good fortune to recruit her to our team.

“What captivated me most about the Teaching Residency is its focus on East Harlem,” she says. “I am very passionate about seeing change in my community; as a Latinx teacher, I feel the need to empower scholars and ignite their critical thinking skills. I want them to start questioning their surroundings in order to fight against racist norms they see in their community.” In short: “ I want children to feel invincible.”

Zurita became a teacher because of deep-seated concerns over the low educational standards for children of color. Growing up, she witnessed power struggles between teachers and students; the teachers’ failed attempts at maintaining control only led to her peers feeling enraged and disconnected. This will not happen in Zurita’s classroom. “I want to inspire my students to think that their goals are attainable, and therefore seek to best prepare them for the future,” she says.

Although Zurita says celebrating Latinx Heritage Month is “extremely fulfilling,” she didn’t always embrace who she is. “For a long period of time I used to compare myself to my white counterparts and think of myself as less,” she says. “I idolized Eurocentric features and wanted to assimilate to the American lifestyle. I look back and it still saddens me … Today, I am proud of my Mexican roots and the traditions that are held within my culture and my household.”

These traditions were reinforced as she grew up in a loving home with her parents, four siblings — and tamales at every celebration. A graduate of Lehman College, where she got her bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Zurita takes the time for non-academic pursuits. Although she jokes that she’s no professional, Lissette enjoys to dance! To celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, she challenges everyone to try her favorite Mexican dish: Pozole.

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East Harlem Heroes Day Our EHTP ‘Family’ Keeps Growing!

The rich legacy of El Barrio can be felt at East Harlem Scholars Academies through a tradition that was started eight years ago. East Harlem Heroes Day was created to pay homage to the individuals who have made an impact in the community and serve as role models for the students who will become the next generation of change-makers.

This year’s honorees included Francheska ‘Hey Fran Hey’ Medina, wellness advocate; Adrienne Alverio, EHTP alum and founder of Red Carpet Curls; Justice Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court; James Baldwin, renowned novelist, playwright and activist; Evlina López Antonetty, civil rights activist; Nicholasa Mohr, children’s book author; Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road NY and Eric Velasquez, children’s book author.

These Heroes joined an impressive roster of their peers and predecessors — among the 43 include renowned writers, artists and activists the likes of Maya Angelou, Julia de Burgos, Celia Cruz, Langston Hughes, Tito Puente, Hiram Maristany and more. As scholars celebrated Heroes in the classrooms named in their honor, the Heroes had the chance to ignite the curiosity and imagination of our youth, and inspire them to strive for the best.

Maristany, a master photographer whose Smithsonian collection documents scenes of East Harlem life, described efforts to capture some of his most well-known images and urged scholars in his classroom to take advantage of their education: “Use this time well. Dream big. Work hard. And try your best to do your best.”

There’s nothing like building love through a network of individuals who are committed to our scholar’s educational and personal growth. As our Heroes joined scholars at Community Circle, and walked the halls of our elementary, middle and newly-opened high school, they had a chance to share their personal journeys with scholars.

Medina, a Harlem-based voice of conscious day-to-day living, advised the 9th graders on how to be successful and navigate the world: “No one has gone through what you’ve gone through or can share your story the way in which you can. Your story is your energy signature and it’s your responsibility to share it authentically.”

Trevor Baldwin, nephew of James Baldwin, answered thoughtful questions from high schoolers who read his uncle’s “The Fire Next Time”: “I’m always proud to represent my Uncle Jimmy and being with you today, let’s me know his legacy continues. I’m so inspired by your school’s motto, ‘Love, Liberate, Heal,’ and cannot wait to see how you will carry the torch to transform our communities.”

We’d like to welcome our 2019 Heroes to the EHTP fold, and to a community that is much richer than the sum of its parts. As Hero Orlando Ortiz put it, EHTP means one thing: “Mi familia.”

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Star Scholar

Shaylynn, 14, may have just started a new school, but she is no stranger to the East Harlem Scholars family. A student who joined East Harlem Scholars Elementary in first grade, the 9th grader shares her feelings and hopes about the new year:

EHTP: You’ve been with us a while! How was the move up to high school? 

Shaylynn:  It was amazing and so exciting. I like having each class with scholars who came from other middle schools and meeting unique people. I also like having houses and being more hands-on in building hobbies and clubs.

EHTP:  What is your favorite thing about school?

Shaylynn: My favorite thing is receiving an education and getting to know new teachers and students. Going to school is one thing I know can make me successful. I want to pass each class with an average of 80 percent or higher and make it to honor roll each semester.

EHTP:  What does Love, Liberate, Heal mean to you? 

Shaylynn:  When I first heard Love, Liberate, Heal, it made me feel safe to be in my community. Those three words gave me hope that we can make things better, on our terms, with our behavior, and through our mindset. We strive to help one another, not only inside our school but outside in our community.

EHTP:  Tell us one fun fact about you.

Shaylynn:  I like to play a lot of sports — basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball — and do  activities with friends, but when I am in a quiet place alone, I like to read and draw.

EHTP:  Any advice?

Shaylynn:  Don’t listen to what other people have to say. Love yourself and love who you are. At the end of the day it’s your mind and your body; hold yourself to your highest standards and don’t let anyone create obstacles for you; God has built you to overcome and power through.

 

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Back to School — But More Than Business as Usual

I am amazing. I am powerful. I am ENOUGH.

These words aren’t from a teen self-help book, or an X-Men movie. They are, however, part of the narrative that will inform the coming-of-age story of our own 9th grade super heroes. As we closed out the first official week at East Harlem Scholars Academy High, the school philosophy of “Love. Liberate. Heal.” imbued every space. For the school, it is much more than a slogan — it is the words from which every interaction is formed.

“Thinking about people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., thinking about the civil rights movement, I don’t believe that any large task can get done without self-love, community love …. love to me is the root of everything,” said Tammy Myers, founding principal of East Harlem Scholars Academy High School. “In order to grow, it is the seeds, the roots, the sunshine.” Delve into the meaning of  liberate and heal with her, and you’ll quickly understand why scholars have taken to these words.

“When I first heard Love, Liberate, Heal, it made me feel safe to be in my community,” said Shaylynn, a founding scholar. “Those three words gave me hope that we can make things better.”

Our inaugural class will experience a project-based curriculum that connects the classroom to the community in socially relevant, culturally conscious ways. “We are launching our high school with a leadership team of bold, bright, and brave women,” said Dr. Robert S. Harvey, superintendent and managing director of East Harlem Scholars Academies. “We are saying ‘yes’ to visionary thinking in the classroom as we create a community-based, college-bound, transformative network of schools committed to the practice of freedom.”

At any Scholars Academy, academics are key, and the high school is no exception. Students will earn full Regents diplomas and enjoy an array of Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Through instruction derived from the school themes of social justice and community change, they will also develop an activist mindset and real-world experience. All of this sets the course for our scholars becoming the next generation of problem-solvers and thought leaders.

As they create the space where they can exercise their inherent brilliance, our founders will know that “there are tools within their reach that they are capable of using every day, so they can thrive and define success for themselves,” said Principal Myers. But perhaps most importantly, “I want our scholars to be able to experience joy every day.” 

 

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East Harlem Tutorial Program Celebrates its Graduates & the ‘Mosaic’ That Supports Their Journey Through College

Philanthropists, Scholars, and Families Come Together to Raise $4 Million for East Harlem Education Movement & Announcement of New Community-Based High School

NEW YORK CITY – On May 20, East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) will bring together more than 600 community, civic, and business leaders to honor the college-bound seniors who have participated in its renowned after-school program, as well as celebrate the launch of EHTP’s own community-based public high school opening this August.

The organization, known for its impressive college completion rates (70 percent, six times the national average for students from low-income households), and leadership in the anti-racism educational movement, leverages the event to fund core initiatives.

Event Chairs Stacy & Jonathan Pollack are leading the charge to raise $4 million alongside Vice Chairs that include noted philanthropists and civic leaders Marilyn and Jim Simons, Lili Lynton and Michael Ryan, Judith Gibbons and Francesco Scattone, Cassie and William Rahm, and Cindy and Brian Gavin.

Taking place at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the event’s theme is “Our Mosaic: Then & Now” — a nod to the diverse and vibrant groups of supporters, mentors, educators, and volunteers that allow EHTP to flourish year after year. “Our Mosaic” is a literal and figurative representation of the organization’s 61-year history, inspired by the stunning piece that legendary muralist Manny Vega created to depict EHTP’s original building.

“EHTP is a coming together of diverse backgrounds, ideas, and thinking,” said Executive Director Jeff Ginsburg. “We are grateful to our supporters, and inspired and informed by our neighborhood which, despite being ignored by institutional structures for decades, boasts an extraordinarily rich history. Tonight we join together to assert that all children deserve a great education.”

Highlights of the 33rd Annual Benefit include:

• A welcome from EHTP Board Chair Joan Solotar and Alumni Council Co-Chair Jennifer Perez
• Remarks by Jeff Ginsburg about the organization’s vision for the future and EHTP’s commitment to racial equity work
• News about EHTP’s first-ever public charter high school, opening this fall
• A musical performance by the East Harlem Scholars Academy Middle School Ensemble
• A keynote by graduating high school senior Diana Galindo-Linares. Ms. Galindo-Linares was bullied and struggled academically in her early school years, but followed her mother’s advice: “Si caes siete veces, sube ocho” (“If you fall seven times, rise eight times”). Diana plans to attend City College of New York in August.

EHTP’s leadership will also recognize community leader Helen Webber, who passed away in December. EHTP began in 1958 when Mrs. Webber began hosting a children’s reading group in her living room. Her passion for learning, belief in the potential of East Harlem youth, and commitment to social justice — as well as her urgings to “read, read read” — have been the guiding force behind EHTP since its inception.

Flash forward some six decades, and EHTP has expanded into the multi-site program that it is today. Providing thousands of students with high-quality, tuition-free academic and enrichment activities, EHTP has an ambitious goal — to reach 25 percent of East Harlem youth by 2025, providing key services and supports as they realize their best possible selves.

For more information or interview requests, please contact Wende Gozan Brown at [email protected]

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And the Award Goes To…

Huge congratulations to Martinique Teperman, director of social services for our Out-of-School Time program, who last night was presented with the Latino Social Work Coalition Leadership Award! It is a recognition well deserved: Martinique always knew she wanted to work with children, and with over 13 years’ experience under her belt, she is deeply committed to ensuring that all students and families have access to quality academic and mental health services.

Martinique has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Romance Languages from New York University, and studied Advanced Clinical Social Work with a concentration on Family, Youth, and Children’s Services at Columbia School of Social Work. She put her education into practice as a Clinical Social Work Fellow at the Yale Child Study Center, where she worked with young people ages 5-18 with a variety of mental health issues, and worked as a Senior Social Worker at the Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program.

Martinique’s transition to East Harlem Tutorial Program has given her the opportunity to collaborate closely with students and families, ensuring that we truly are community-based and college-bound. She wears many hats at EHTP — overseeing the Social Services department of the afterschool program, which serves 400 students in grades K-12; supervising Master’s level social workers and MSW interns; leading staff trainings and collaborative meetings; facilitating groups for high school students and monthly workshops for parents, and more. Martinique is a member of EHTP’s Anti-Racism Coalition and has participated in the Anti-Racism Facilitator Training. Martinique also spearheaded our after-school program’s Family Council — designed to build relationships, support our students’ parents and family members, and provide them a space to give input on our work.

Kudos to you, Martinique — we appreciates your leadership, and we are so fortunate to have you as part of the EHTP family!

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Our Scholars: The Future of Broadway

 

Our second, third and fourth grade Scholars found their inner rock stars as performers from Broadway Hearts — a non-profit comprised of working performers from Broadway, Off-Broadway, television, film and ballet companies, who usually serve hospitalized children — broke from tradition to provide a performance workshop at Scholars II Elementary.

Amongst the performers were Founder Jessica Radetsky, Satomi Hoffmann, Elizabeth Welch, Jeremy Stolle, Kelsey Connolly and Deborah Grausman, who answered questions about the “biz,” taught choreography, and watched as Scholars demonstrated the musical skills they honed during rehearsals for our December Winter Spectacular.

Our Scholars — who are currently studying Broadway in their music classes — joined in on renditions of Rent’s “Seasons of Love,” Frozen’s “Let it Go,” Phantom of the Opera’s “Masquerade” and more, as they learned about singing, acting, movement and improvisation with interactive on-stage activities. Thank you to the performers who made this a special day!

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#HistoryInTheMaking — Nyasha Manigault

Making sure an organization’s books are in order may not be the most visible role at a non-profit, but it is certainly one of the most important — so for today’s Black History Month post, we’re recognizing one of our unsung heroes at EHTP, Director of Finance Nyasha Manigault.

Nyasha is an accomplished executive with proven experience in all aspects of business and fiscal operations, with specialties including strategic planning, analysis and forecasting, project and program management, risk oversight and investment optimization.

After realizing her interest in math, she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Statistics from Harvard University. She started her career at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then began a long-standing career with American Express.

Aside from numbers, Nyasha has always had a passion for mentoring. In addition to joining the East Harlem Tutorial family in 2016, she dedicated 15 years to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. There she mentored teenage girls of color, with hopes of expanding her students’ world by encouraging them to explore the option of a college-bound track and opportunities outside of New York City.

We are grateful that Nyasha transitioned to the nonprofit sector and is leveraging her fiscal knowledge at EHTP to support our Scholars in East Harlem. Thank you, Nyasha, for adding so much to the community! #HistoryInTheMaking

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