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The Heritage School: A Model Extended Day Program

"The after-school program was great. I finished my first video production. I've learned to edit and operate a camera. If I hadn't been in this program I would have been bored at home," said ninth-grader, Thomas O'Reilly.

Thomas sums up the feeling of accomplishment that has been swirling around the Heritage School and Teachers College ever since the Fall of 1998, when President Clinton announced that Heritage was awarded a three-year 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant.

Mahbobeh Ghods and Students

Mahbobeh Ghods with Students.

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Heritage received one of the early awards of this unprecedented initiative that now includes 310 recipients and a total of $186 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Education, which awards the grants, and the Mott Foundation, which provides training and technical assistance. It has made a dramatic and positive impact on the Heritage School, the 3-year-old East Harlem high school founded as a collaboration between Teachers College and the New York City Board of Education.

The Heritage School mission is to offer an innovative curriculum where traditional academics are balanced with interdisciplinary learning in which the arts-visual, music, dance, and drama-are critical dimensions to all programs of study. An extended day program was always an integral part of the mission because many of these programs cannot be implemented during regular hours.
Professor Judith Burton, the former Chair of TC's Department of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Art Education, who envisioned and propelled the school into reality, saw the "Extended Day and Community Program" as integrated with and flowing naturally from the regular school day curriculum and as a vehicle to involve the community in the life of the school.

The Heritage School's Principal, Susan Bartolone, explained why the Extended Day Program has become an important part of the school day. "For many students the extended day activities build their self-esteem by giving them a chance to demonstrate skills in nontraditional ways."

Cathleen Kiebert-Gruen, a TC doctoral student, who wrote the CCLC grant and is the Director of the Extended Day and Community Program, underscores Ms. Bartolone's assessment. "The Heritage School offers a unique model for a 21st Century Community Learning Center. Located inside the newly renovated Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, which also houses the community arts organization, Taller Boricua (The Puerto Rican Workshop), our program serves students and families who live in the Harlem community."

From its inception, the Extended Day Program was designed to include community collaboration. The School has worked closely with Taller Boricua, among others. Fernando Salicrup, Executive Director of Taller Boricua, said, "We like the students to work with professional artists or as we like to call them, mentors. I believe that's important in their lives."

Through Taller Boricua, Extended Day students collaborated with media artists to create a CD-ROM about the school, a poetry writing workshop, an arts lab, a video production program, as well as a newspaper club.

Heritage School Leadership Team
Heritage School Principal Susan Bartolone with John Rosario and Zakiyyah Jefferson, parents and members of the School Leadership Team.
 
   

Tony Colon, a tenth grader said, "I wouldn't have learned the trombone if I didn't come to the after-school program. I really learned to play Latin Jazz, which has helped me to develop and understand my music. My grades have gone up since I've participated in the program-Heritage is one of a kind."

Mahbobeh Ghods, a TC doctoral student in Art and Art Education, offered to begin a "little computer club" which now has one of the highest participation rates in the program. "We have students who have not missed one session. They like to learn," said Ghods.

Kiebert-Gruen is most proud of the turnaround in parent programming. "We had very little parent involvement for the first couple of years. Parents weren't coming to the school. I think the school and its formal environment may have intimidated them. But it's all changed. We've had two parent events where we had over 150 attendees. That's major."

In June, the Heritage School received an additional grant of $146, 000 from The After-School Corporation (TASC). The need for this expansion is clear. This fall, the school's enrollment will go from 247 to an anticipated 310, the target number the school has been working towards since its opening. "The grant will help to enhance our homework support program and provide new internship opportunities," said Kiebert-Gruen.

"There's much, much, more," she added, "but the program will now offer a minimum of 10 hours a week per student and will be open to all 310 students."

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