Diving Deep in the Zone
Zone 126- Pathways to Success  
by Anthony Lopez, Executive Director

While the building boom in Long Island City and the gentrification of Astoria has brought new restaurants and bars to the area, the public schools in the neighborhoods near public housing struggle to serve all students well.  Three zip codes in the area – 11101, 11102 and 11106 – house three housing developments that enroll hundreds of children with high needs into the local schools. Each zip code has a housing development: Queensbridge Houses are in 11101, Ravenswood Houses are in zip 11106 and Astoria Houses are in 11102.

Zone 126 is an Astoria-based nonprofit that emerged in 2011 to bring desperately needed programs and services into under-resourced community anchors in these zip codes.  Using a cradle to career framework, Zone 126 and its partners help to get more students in the area graduating high school, into college and in careers of choice, and over time, avoid the pipeline to poverty cycle.  

In December 2016, Zone 126 announced a new organizational strategy that seeks to increase the number of African-American, Latinx and immigrant youth from Astoria and Long Island City who connect to success, both in and beyond school. One essential strand of this work is an explicit focus on Pre-K to 12th grade students who are off track for success. Students who have not experienced success in traditional settings need programs that: (1) re-engage them in learning, (2) identify and address their unique needs, or, (3) create a sense of belonging at school. Emerging evidence suggests that all of these conditions are necessary for youth who have fallen or are being pushed off track for success. 

The next evolutionary stage for Zone 126 and its partners is to spur innovation and improve student achievement across the Zone as well as position young people for a bright future, one where they have a clear path to higher education and successful careers.

News from the Zone
Pipeline Update
I'm My Child's First Teacher

Recently, Zone 126 Organizing Director Andre Stith sat down with Latonia, a parent who is involved in the Parent Child Home (PCHP) program delivered through our partnership with the Child Center of NY (CCNY) to discuss her experience with the program. 

"The program has been a great experience for my daughter and I. When we first started she was timid and afraid to engage. However, because of Jenny's commitment and consistency to the visits; she has been engaging and learning so much more. Her interest for books has increased, and she anticipates the visit with Jenny. I am glad to have found this program because it is helping me to prepare my daughter for school. In addition, it allows me to be the first teacher in her life with the books and toys the program provides."

- Latonia, Parent 

Black History Month at CS111Q
by Stephanie Leichtle, Community School Coordinator

On February 8th, Community School 111Q celebrated Black History Month with a moving evening of student performances and a drum and dance demonstration by Alvin Ailey. Performances included song, dance, and spoken word from the LEAP Pre-K after school program, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House COMPASS/SONYC after-school program, and The Leadership Program. The final performance was an interactive drum and dance demonstration where scholars, parents, and staff joined Alvin Ailey instructors on the stage to learn and move to the beat of Jazz and Afro-Caribbean style dancing.

Inspiring Minds at the Summit  
by Michelle Makabali, Community School Director: Long Island City High School

Earlier this month, I attended the National Mentoring Summit in Washington D.C.  This is the only conference where professionals gather to discuss quality mentoring relationships for young people across the country.

The conference began with a day of advocacy entitled “Capitol Hill Day.” Around 400 professionals, researchers, philanthropic investors and government and civic leaders met with numerous elected officials throughout the Senate and House of Representatives. Our New York team navigated the numerous corridors and tunnels around the nation’s capitol. We had a full day of meetings with the following: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. Serrano and Rep. Jefferies. This experience was eye-opening to see our elected officials and their teams at work while also taking a deep interest in our personal stories and the work we are conducting on the ground level.  

The National Mentoring Summit provided ample opportunities to network and see how mentoring is established in various cities across the country. There are programs that span multiple avenues: everything from one-on-one mentoring to cross-age group work; from leveraging celebrity athletes to exploring practices for mentoring African-American males; as well as developing effective coalitions and mentoring collaborations utilizing the Collective Impact model.

These in-depth sessions were a great way to re-invigorate myself professionally as the spring semester began. I felt like I climbed a mountain and was reminded how essential our work is. It is important to make connections with mentors who can help prepare their mentees through their education, daily life and future career paths.

Please stay tuned for a more in-depth look at key sessions in future newsletters.

Updates from the Resident Leaders Affinity Group
by Andre Stith, Organizing Director

On Friday, February 17 residents, parent leaders, and others gathered for the first Zone 126 Resident Leaders Affinity Group. The group delved into a discussion on the best practices and the challenges that are facing our local educational institutions in Astoria and Long Island City today. 

The debate on district public schools versus charter schools takes place across the country. However, on this day Parent Coordinators from both the district schools and the local charter schools began a dialogue on what it means to support children and families who live in poverty. This group discussed how children and families share the same playgrounds, neighborhoods, and dismissed the educational segregation mindset of "my school versus your school" mentality that does not serve the greater good of a community.

Topics of concern raised for future discussion centered around school buses and school crossing guards. We look forward to having these parent leaders and other parents at our next Cradle to Career Convening on March 25th. 

Save the Date
Zone 126's Cradle to Career Convening
Making the Home-School Connection
Saturday, March 25, 2017

What We Are Reading

  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique W. Morris 
  • Race(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms, H.Richard Milner IV 
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance, Angela Duckworth 
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susain Cain

We would like to thank all of our funders for all their help: Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation, New York City Department of Education, Altman Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation and Staples Foundation.