The Council of School Supervisors & Administrators recently highlighted CEI’s 21st Century Learning Program in their monthly newsletter. This DOE program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs, and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children. Click to view the original article.
When Alice Bajaña-Vega, the principal at the Bronx High School of Business, walked into the computer lab late one afternoon in December to check on how a music production class was doing, she happened upon a performance by a student who typically was less engaged academically than he should be. The teen, who had experienced trauma in his life and was prone to outbursts at school, had created a song that Ms. Bajaña-Vega assumed was from the radio. “The other kids seemed to know the song and were chanting with him,” she said. “He had his dance moves.”
She said she was startled to learn that the student had created the music, lyrics and figured out how to perform the piece by himself. “I was amazed at the quality,” she recalled. “It was something very inspiring to see students that some- times have problems academically to be engaged and produce such quality work when they have the tools and motivation to do it,” said the principal, who took the helm of the school in November.
The student’s work came about through the school’s Renewal Hour program, a collaboration with the non-profit Center for Educational Innovation, or CEI, and the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, or SASF, a non-profit provider of school-based after-school programs in New York City and the metro area.
The program is part of an extra hour of instruction provided on Mondays and Tuesdays at the school “when our staff needs professional development and parent engagement time,” she said, adding that the class was based on a survey about students’ interests.
Ms. Bajaña-Vega credits the SASF’s Emmanuel Tapia, a music producer, singer/songwriter, and DJ, for the success of the class attended by up to 20 mostly male students, all of whom stuck with the program. “He’s become such an integral part of the school community,” she said of Mr. Tapia, a presence at the school beyond his classroom hours. “On Fridays, we have music during lunchtime, and he’s down there DJing for students, playing music they like,” said the principal. “When we have a basketball game, he’s the MC for that.”
Longtime CSA member and retiree Harvey Kaplan, a senior director for CEI, said: “Emmanuel’s music production class really is a full house.” Born and Raised in the Bronx, Mr. Kaplan has also spent his career as an educator there. He said it gave him great pleasure to see a program work so well in the borough. “It’s so great to be able to be involved in some- thing so positive, I don’t know how often Bronx schools are highlighted.”