Dear Friends, 

As previously reported, we are thrilled to be expanding our impact by opening an elementary school in 2020. I stress: this opportunity would not have been possible without your support. Thank you for your faith in us. We promise to approach this new phase of growth with both humility and strength. 

Of course, life at the middle school continues apace. We strive each day to engage all students in work that matters; helping them set goals that have purpose and create plans to reach them. We also stress the importance of working together in both small groups and as a larger school community to achieve common goals. By learning to excel as individuals and collaborate effectively, we truly prepare them for life in the real world. 

Similarly: the technical skills formerly required to be a good worker are no longer enough. People must be masters of their craft, but must also possess “soft skills” to truly succeed. Typical soft skills include adaptability, leadership, complex problem-solving, and social and emotional intelligence, those that allow a person to work well with others and navigate their environment. These too are the kind of universal skills that we are working daily to instill in our students to ensure their success in life beyond S2.

Below you’ll see examples of our students learning real-world skills that are helping them thrive in the classroom and out. We are so excited for them and proud.

S2 Takes on Albany
S2 8th grade student representatives along with Social Studies teacher Maeve Pfeifer and Evan Meyers pose for a picture with NYS Regent Nan Eileen Mead and Executive Director of the NYS Education Department Charter Office, David Frank in the halls of the NYS Education Building.
During the first quarter 8th grade students took a deep dive into the history of education in the United States with a focus on the experience of African Americans and Latinos. Prominent court cases, such as Brown v Board of Education were researched as each 8th grader produced a policy paper on the topic, "Education in New York City."

Bringing the classroom to life, nine of our 8th graders visited Albany on December 10, 2019 to share their thoughts on education and learn the roll of New York State Education Department. Students toured the NYSED building and participated in an engaging lesson on education oversight led by the Executive Director of the NYSED Charter Office, David Frank. As honored guests, they were also invited to observe the December meeting for Board of Regents.

Following the Regents meeting, Regent Nan Eileen Mead, meet with S2 students who asked hard questions regarding state testing, funding inequities in education and how can NY get better outcomes for all students. They were completely prepared and poised as Social Studies teacher Maeve Pfeifer ensured this with her work prior to our trip. David Frank publicly remarked, “It's great hearing sensible policy solutions to inequity in the education system from students at School in the Square with Regent Nan Mead. If these 8th graders are our state's next leaders we are in good hands! Their passion for creating a better future for all NYS students is inspiring.” 
Student’s left NYSED motivated and committed to explore how they could impact education equity.

“I feel privileged being on this trip, it’s not every day you get to go to Albany and see how everything works. To meet so many people who are thinking about education, to be in the rooms we were in.
I know not everyone gets to do this.”  
- Musa, 8th grade 
Our New Debate Team
Meeting every Wednesday for two hours and on select Saturdays, a novice group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders came together to learn the art of debate. Stepping out of their comfort zones, these students came together to not only form S2's first debate team but also began to appreciate working together to be a powerful force.

"T his was my first time in debate and I was nervous. I'm glad I joined because I'm learning new things like the affirmative and negative rebuttal." - Jayden, 6th grade
Our Debate Club leaders and Special Education teachers, Kara Scagliola and Brianne Hunt shared their excitement: "When the students get to the debate, they do not know what order the topics will be in, or which side they will be on, and then they have 20 minutes to prepare their arguments from their notes and research. We cannot say how proud we are of their professionalism, composure, and preparedness as novice debaters!"
The S2 Debate Team: Elianne, Manar, Joey, Jayden, Grace, Alan (pictured above is Cira)

Alumni Update
“I consider S2 middle school my home because they had people there that understood me. How they treated me actually felt very good…They gave me support if I was stuck with something and I was having a hard issue. I really feel like they’re god parents to me." - S2 graduate
Our real world work with our kids doesn’t stop at graduation. In partnership with the CUNY Graduate Center we have trained a cohort of 14 alumni to be student researchers. Since last summer, they have been working with the CUNY team to create surveys and learn the skills of an oral historian. They now have gone into the field to administer the surveys and conduct interviews. The goal of this data collection is to provide a comprehensive understanding of our 9th grader’s experience across 37 NYC High Schools.

On Saturday, Jan 25th our alumni researchers met at the CUNY Graduate Center to unpack the data they had collected from surveys and interviews. All told they had 75 surveys and 44 interviews-- we call them oral histories. S2 will use the results to better advise next year’s graduates as well as to create support programs for our current alumni.

Here is a short video which shares some highlights of our day!
This spring our alumni will be continuing their data collection and will end this school year by presenting on their process and findings at NYC’s Youth Summit in June!

A Moment with Clara
This past summer Clara Peña arrived to Washington Heights from the town of Sánchez Ramírez , Dominican Republic. Clara was nervous and anxious as many things remained uncertain about a new country, neighborhood and school. One thing was certain, her guardian, Maxima wanted Clara to attend School in the Square, where her son also attends.

To support Clara's transition, she was invited to Summer in the Square. Over team building activities in an outdoor setting, Clara was able to ease into her new school and make friends. With the support of S2 staff, teachers and students Clara is making strong strides in learning English and getting acclimated to New York City.

"I am very happy at this school. Everyone has helped me so much. I didn't know much English when I came, and was very afraid to speak up in class, but the teachers and my friends help me in every way. Every school should be like this."
- Clara, 8th grade

Recently, Clara received the 8th grade award for "Educate" a special recognition for her commitment to her studies and serving as an example for the S2 community.

"Clara works hard with every task she is assigned and not afraid to push herself or ask for support. All 8th grade teachers agreed she was the perfect candidate for the S2 Educate Award. " - Lesley Perez, 8th grade English Language Arts teacher  
Ms. Perez with 8th grade winners for "Engage," Maritza, "Educate" Clara and "Empowered" Sheylany.