INSPIRING A MOVEMENT
In July 1996 thirteen youths from Abounding Grace Ministries in Lower Manhattan established Generation Xcel (collectively “AGM”) as a neighborhood youth center in the Jacob Riis Houses. Despite drawing 80% or more of its students from PS/MS 34 across the street, their attempts to formalize a relationship with the school never materialized beyond the fact that they shared so many students.
Then in 2006, AGM began interacting differently with the school. Two leaders Jonathan Del Rio and Dorothy Sanabria joined the middle school’s faculty as math teachers. Jonathan had applied for a New York City Teaching Fellowship specifically with the goal of being placed in the school where he already knew dozens of students, and Dorothy transferred into the school from Brooklyn.
Six months later, AGM asked the school administration how they could better support the school’s vision for its students. Painting projects, annual BBQs, breakfasts for the staff, commencement addresses, Superstorm Sandy relief efforts, pep rallies and assemblies, tutoring and mentoring, and more have resulted so far, along with regular use of the school facilities for church and community events. A Paint the Town grant in the summer of 2007 allowed AGM to paint 20/20’s first mural project, before 20/20 had even launched.
Every year since 2006, PS/MS 34 has experienced an incremental — and now total — transformation. In October 2013, the school received its second consecutive overall “A” rating on the City’s School Progress Report Card.
BEYOND NUMBERS: A STUDENT’S STORY
AGM remains a prototype for the impact even a relatively small-to-midsize community partner can have as they mobilize resources and support for a school’s most vulnerable population. Beyond the school report cards, students like Manny and Miriam (name changed) embody the hopeful life change 20/20 represents.
Born and raised in the housing projects, Miriam lives in a father-absent, low-income home. Family members have battled substance abuse, and underemployed relatives have been incarcerated. Statistically, Miriam would have to emerge as an against-the-odds success story in order to overcome the risk factors conspiring against her.
She is doing exactly that.
Today a college freshman, AGM’s academic enrichment programs helped increase Miriam’s reading and math scores to proficient. Leadership development and community service opportunities expanded her vision for her future and an appreciation for the neighborhood around her. Mentors have coached her through difficult family challenges, and encouraged her to pursue her love of art as a creative way to process emotions and contribute beauty to her community.
Stories like Manny’s and Miriam’s play out everyday as 20/20’s partner organizations provide wrap-around supports for students who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
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Watch Manny’s Story