NY Harbor School: Making Waves in Education

It’s a proud accomplishment for any academic institution to make the front page of the NY Times. For me it’s even more exciting when it one that uses maritime culture and heritage to change the lives of inner city youth and it’s even better when I know some of the people involved.

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Today’s NY Times (June 26, 2008 ) has a great front page article by Sara Rimer about the Urban Assembly’s New York Harbor School entitled Taking Lessons, and Confidence, From the Water. It’s a must read for anyone interested or involved in maritime education. Here’s a link to my previous post, The Privilege of Sailing, that I did on the Harbor School along with co-founder Murray Fisher adding a comment.

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Outcomes are what matters in programs like this and here’s some interesting facts from the article:

The Harbor School has 390 students in grades 9 to 12, 70 percent Latino and 30 percent black, with many from the Caribbean. Last year’s graduation rate was 63 percent, Mr. Fisher said, nearly triple the rate of the old Bushwick High School, which once occupied the same building. The citywide average is about 50 percent.

But more importantly the voices and pictures bring this success story to life. Please don’t miss the audio clips or slide show! If you only have time to do one thing today, please listen to student Jennifer Mendez and teacher Melissa Franco and you will get a better understanding about the power of the sea to teach and change lives!

Yes, she, Jennifer Mendez, 15, the girl from Brooklyn who used to be afraid of the water and everything related to it — fish, boats, bugs — was steering the Lettie up the river, along the Upper West Side. The captain of the ship, Denise Meagher, was standing by. But with her hand on the wheel, Jennifer felt as if she were the captain, responsible for the ship and everyone on it — the crew, her ninth-grade classmates and their science teachers, Roy Arrezo and Ann Fraioli.

A little later, Jennifer would write in her class journal, “I feel as if I can do anything.” Even, she confided, make the honor roll.

“I feel so privileged to learn about the water,” Jennifer wrote in her journal. “The Hudson River is like an ancestor of our past, and if we listen to it, it just might tell tales.”

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Congratulations to the Murray Fisher and Nathan Dudley and all of the professional and volunteer leadership of the Harbor School for creating something special for New York City youth and for a well deserved acknowledgement on the front page of the NY Times! Also, congratulations to all of the Harbor School students who work so hard to make this unique program a success! Like sailing a tall ship, you’re all in the same boat so keep up the great work!

Photo credit: Ruby Washington / NY Times

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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