Continuing to Impact Students - Despite School Closure

Sylvia Monreal is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at the MLK Jr. Community Campus in Newark, NJ Last month, the superintendent of Newark Public Schools announced her plans to close seven schools in the district. One of those schools happened to be our site, Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Campus. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote on this blog the challenges we would face in the Kingdom (as we’ve come to call the school) as the first Expanded Learning Time site in all of Citizen Schools New Jersey. It would be tempting to write up Superintendent Anderson’s announcement as an end of our mission but that would be far from the truth.

Marian Wright Edelman, the president and founder of Children’s Defense Fund, once said, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”

There is no doubt that Superintendent Anderson’s announcement will bring great change to the lives of our students, but, hopefully, so will the daily work that we continue to do as a part of Citizen Schools.

Last week, our campus held its fourth Apprenticeship Fair - an event where volunteers enter the classroom and pitch students on the ten-week courses they're going to teach - and it was a stunning success. A new batch of new Citizen Teachers joined some inspiring veteran volunteers to dazzle our students with the promise of upcoming Apprenticeships. There was no sign of resignation to be found in the building, only excitement about future learning. I remember poking my head into a room to see a group of sixth grade boys that you normally couldn’t pay to sit quietly silently investigating their “fossil” samples for clues, guided by the Earth Science volunteer teachers. In a different room, a group of students with special needs crowded around to study a lemon circuit in the BEAM (Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics) Robotics presentation.

Just last Monday, during our Explore! Time, the Team Leaders and the students set aside their worries to practice a different sort of learning. Together, they worked on constructing racecars from recyclable materials, sculpted office supplies out of clay, and dabbled in pop art. Some 8th grade students even took a break from their game and helped a younger boy with his homework so he could join in with the fun.

I believe that these are the daily moments that Edelman called for in order to change a nation, even in the face of sometimes sudden and drastic political changes. Anderson’s announcement looms overhead, but our campus remains committed to our everyday work and our students until the very end.

Where have you seen small differences that will add up, overtime, to make big differences?