Hooray! Summer is Over!

We know that is not what you were probably thinking, but on Wednesday, September 7, a new school year will begin for New York City students and we could not be more excited. There will be new opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun for students all over the five boroughs. For Tenzin and Alejandra, who comprise Stride’s founding class, it will be their final year at Washington Irving High School as they prepare to go to college next fall.

When we asked the students how they felt approaching their senior year, this is what they said:

“Omg it feels like just yesterday since I walked into W.I.H.S and now its my last year, I’m so excited for my senior year!” – Alejandra

“It’s amazing that I am a Senior this year. I can’t wait to see what this year brings and I’m excited to apply to college!” – Tenzin

This is an exciting time for Stride as well. It seems like just yesterday that we were filling out paperwork to become a 501(c)3 and taking our first steps as an organization by awarding Alejandra and Tenzin the very first scholarships in our history. They were only freshmen then, but now they are seniors and we are incredibly proud of their accomplishments. Both have grown so much as students, as members of the community, and as people over the past few years.

Stride has grown too. We now have seven board members dedicated to strengthening our organization, mentors for each student, and a brand new website. As the new school year begins, we are incredibly excited about what the future holds.

We believe we can help improve the graduation rate in New York City pubic schools by awarding scholarships during the freshmen year and allowing students to focus on their studies secure in the knowledge that their hard work will pay off upon graduation. We are proud to have the faculty and staff of Washington Irving High School as our partners.

Of course, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the help and support of many of you. Your contributions have made a tremendous impact on the future of these students and our organization. We can’t thank you enough for all you have done.

This year we will begin preparing for a new class of Stride scholarship students and we need your help spreading the word.  Make sure to visit our Facebook page for news and updates, and follow us on Twitter. As always, we hope to see you at our annual fundraiser, but contributions can also be made anytime in the Donate section of the website.

Thank you for your continued support,

Sincerely,

The Stride Team

A word from our students

(Originally posted December 15, 2010)

Alejandra and Tenzin, Stride’s inaugural class of high school students, are in the midst of their junior years and are excelling!  Below we share some of their reflections on what they’ve accomplished thus far.

***

Dear Stride,

First of all, I would like to wish you a joyful holiday and a happy new year, full of happiness and prosperity. Lots of wonderful things have happened in my life that I hope to continue to impact my future. I hope I will be able to share with you as a new year comes even more good news!

I am giving my best effort in my studies, and I took advantage of the opportunities I have discovered. I got accepted into S-PREP at Columbia University, and I attend there on Saturdays and take Physiology and SAT Math Prep classes since October. Through this program, I recently got accepted into the Columbia University Pipeline Program sponsored by the Charles Drew Premedical Society where I have a mentor from Columbia University. Over the summer, it was very nice to go back to Sloan Kettering and work there as a patient escort. I am grateful for the people I met this year and I am thankful to my family for always supporting me.

I am also thankful to my mentor, Roberta, for always being there for me and for the entire Stride’s members. I would like to take this moment and thank you for being part of the Stride foundation and helping students like me turn my dreams a little closer to being realities.

Best Wishes, Tenzin Yingsal

***

Dear Stride,

Here are some of the things that I can be proud of from this past year:

1.  My dance studio won entertainer of the year in our “That’sEntertainment Dance Nationals” 2. I got accepted to do an externship with 1st grade students and have been enjoying working with the kids, especially since teaching is my passion. 3.  I got a 95 in my math class 1st marking period. 4.  I received a small scholarship in my dance studio which helped to cover the cost of the classes that I take. 5.  I got asked to dance in Washington Irving High School’s Christmas Show.

Thank you for all of your continued support.

Sincerely, Alejandra Romero

Making it happen

Stride relies on private donations for all funding.  The private donations make it possible for Stride to build a fund that will support the day-to-day operations of the program, as well as provide the promised college scholarship to each of the students enrolled.  Stride is operating under Chloe Kaplan, Founder and President and Sabina Breece, Chairperson.  Chloe Kaplan and Sabina Breece dedicate 20 hours per week to growing and building the Stride community.  This includes organizing the annual fundraisers, pursuing grant and funding opportunities, and marketing.  Once the first class of students is accepted into the program in the Fall of 2008, Chloe Kaplan and Sabina Breece, will be directly involved in the students’ progress on a bi-weekly basis.  Washington Irving faculty will be asked to notify Stride leadership of any academic issues that may arise with any of the students.  Stride’s mentors will also be actively involved in each of the student’s growth throughout their high school career and encouraged to maintain a mentor relationship with the student after graduation.

School failure has many causes. However, the single, most common disadvantage of kids who fail is the lack of traditional support in their immediate communities – family, neighborhood, and school.  Historically, poverty in America was overcome by motivated young people. These young people found their incentives in the interlocking networks of adults around them, who cared for them, gave them the encouragement and the help they needed.  We still see this in some of the more cohesive immigrant groups, but it is sadly absent from too many sectors of our society, notably in the inner city schools that have become drop-out factories, and the neighborhoods around them that have become concrete jungles of social, economic, and spiritual neglect.  The Stride idea is to demonstrate that this culture of despair can be reversed, by showing how communities and students can work together to achieve high school success.  Starting extremely small – five students, in one New York City high school, growing to about 40 students over five years and only then branching out toward other high schools, the Stride goal is nonetheless extremely bold and large.  If we want to, we can change the meaning of high school for inner-city kid.

More About The Program

THE STRIDE PROGRAM

Stride addresses the issue of high school drop out rates in the New York City Public School system, at the source, by keeping students in school, and encouraging participation in education beyond graduation.  By utilizing an investment/reward approach, Stride requires that selected students participate in community service and internship opportunities throughout their high school years.  Every year students participate in Stride, their scholarship incentives grow.  After graduating from high school, participants will be awarded scholarships to the college of their choice, having gained job and life skills along the way. This approach allows students to give back to their communities while investing in their own futures.

In order to combat an alarming percentage of teenage drop-outs, Stride selected Washington Irving High School, located in New York City’s Union Square, to be the first school to benefit from the program.  The Washington Irving High School student population grew from 2,400 in 2002-2003 to 3,000 in 2003-2004 due to overflow from other public schools around New York City.  Educators blame the overcrowding at Washington Irving for its inability to maintain high attendance or to contain the frequent outbursts of violence in its classrooms and halls.  By January 2004, Washington Irving was placed on the list of the city’s most dangerous schools, falling into the category of Impact Schools.  Washington Irving was removed from the list in January 2005, after a year of heightened security and extra police officers assigned to the school; however, low attendance and graduation rates remain a critical concern, with just half of the freshman class actually graduating four years later.  In 2005 Washington Irving had 1,243 freshmen students enrolled and just 141 seniors. Of those seniors, just a little more than half went on to pursue a 4-year college education.  On average, well over 1,000 students get lost in the shuffle between 9th and 12th grade.  This is a significant drop in students and typical of a given year at the high school.  With such numbers, it is evident that Washington Irving students need incentives to stay in school and to strive for graduation.

In the Fall 2008, Stride will enroll the first five high school freshmen students into the program.  Stride leadership will work closely with Washington Irving faculty to determine which students are accepted into the program.

Over the course of the following years, Stride will continue to enroll freshmen students while, simultaneously, working with the upperclassmen already enrolled in the program.  Stride’s involvement in the student’s high school career will include:

Encouraging students to maintain an acceptable GPA (to be determined by Washington Irving faculty and Stride leadership,) by staying informed and involved in the student’s day-to-day activities.  Stride will also provide each student with a mentor.  Stride’s mentors commit to a minimum of one hour per month with their assigned student.  Mentors work on a volunteer basis.  In the event that a mentor cannot fulfill his or her obligations, Stride will provide an alternate for the student.

Stride will provide internship opportunities during the summer months.  Starting in their transition from 10th to 11th grade, students would be able to apply for internships provided by Stride partners – the businesses contributing to the program.

Stride requires a minimum amount of community service on entering the 10th Grade.  Stride students will develop a volunteer project of their own design, conduct the project throughout the school year, and then report on it, in writing, to the Stride leadership at the end of the year.  This project could be continued each subsequent year, or the student could develop something new to do each school year until reaching the 12th grade.  Regardless of what they choose to do, or how they do it, students must participate in some kind of civic engagement during their 10th and 11th grade years in order to maintain Stride enrollment.

Upon receiving acceptance to an accredited 4-year college or university, a Stride student will be eligible to receive the promised scholarship. The hope is that their Stride scholarship has underlined their motivation, and has been inspiration throughout their high school career.  The amount awarded would be contingent upon Stride funding, on the total amount of funds needed by the student, and on each student’s success in navigating the program.  The funds awarded would be given for each year that the student is matriculated at their chosen college or university.  Should there be a need, Stride leadership would review specific cases where a student might transfer schools or need to attend part time.  By focusing on five students per year, Stride will be able to maintain personal relationships with each of the students. The program’s small size will give the students the attention they need to stay focused and committed to graduating from high school, and to gain acceptance to college. Thereby, going on to become productive and educated members of their communities.