UA in Action - June 2020
In Memory of Principal Erin Garry
The Urban Assembly was devastated by the unexpected passing of Erin Garry , beloved principal of the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters , on June 4th. Erin was only 36 years old when she passed away in her sleep of natural causes. 

Erin was raised in White Lake, New York, where from a young age, she valued education and spent much of her time honing her skills as a musician, athlete, and scholar. She graduated at the top of her class at Monticello High school, held a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell, and began her career as a public educator when she joined the New York City Teaching Fellows in 2007. After entering NYC’s first cohort of the Leadership Advancement program, Erin was placed as Vice Principal at the UA Bronx Academy of Letters, where she took over as Principal in 2018. As principal, she was committed to centering the voices of her students in building a vibrant culture and community and creating an open, inclusive, and safe environment at Bronx Letters. 

We at the UA are immensely grateful for her loving commitment to the Bronx Letters and the South Bronx community, and for the tremendous impact she left on her students.
UA Students Speak Out Against Racial Injustice
The Urban Assembly Charter School for Computer Science recently published the second volume of WordSmiths , a digital journal of art and literature from students and teachers. Under the banner Black Lives Matter, themes of solidarity, rage, hope, justice, and black excellence permeate the journal, as students and teachers grapple with issues of race and oppression facing people of color.

At the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (UASPA) , students Joanne Hernandez and Jailyn Hernandez created a protest video featuring music, dance, and imagery in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kiara Atkins , also of UASPA, created a spoken word poem to remind the world who matters. Watch below.
Rising UASPA senior Liana Morales started a nationwide conversation about the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ when the Wall Street Journal covered her decision not to sing the national anthem at this year’s virtual graduation ceremony. Instead Liana opted to sing ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,’ commonly known as the Black national anthem - read her op-ed about the decision here. Liana describes her critical choice to stand in solidarity with UASPA’s mostly black and brown students and community who continue to struggle for true liberation in the “land of the free.” Watch her performance below. 
Graduation 2020 - At a Social Distance
Graduation season is particularly special for the Class of 2020, as they’ve had to deal with a sharp transition to remote learning amidst a global pandemic. Although prom venues swapped to Zoom and senior trips morphed into virtual slumber parties, the Class of 2020 proved themselves resilient as they powered through the school year and graduated with even more pomp and circumstance and fanfare than most classes. A few highlights this year include powerful student addresses, like this one from middle school graduate Yesibel of UA School for Law, Government and Justice who states, “Don't modify yourself for the expectations of others... We were all given our voice and power for a reason.” Watch below. 
Other highlights include Hailah Khatari , senior at UA Institute of Math and Science for Young Women whose valedictory address was published in the NY Daily News , or Chrisaury Guzman of UA School for the Performing Arts whose salutatory address recognized her classmates’ incredible strength in the face of unexpected adversity. A final highlight you may have seen in person as it made a debut in all five boroughs… UASEM was featured with a segment on NY1 and in The City for their creative method of bringing the graduation stage to graduates. For the next generation of public heath professionals, it was a particularly important occasion to celebrate.

Hiram Alejandro Durán, The City
Hiram Alejandro Durán, The City
Hiram Alejandro Durán, The City
Courtesy UASEM
Congratulations, Robyn!
Robyn German Phillips , Deputy Director of Postsecondary Access at the UA, was recently awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC) for her exemplary contributions as a leader within a Community-Based Organization. In addition to her role at the UA, Robyn also serves as Board Chair of the College Access Consortium of New York (CACNY) and was recently elected to another term in that role. We are honored that Robyn brings her expertise to these important networks, and equally grateful that she brings the shared learnings from those spaces back to the UA family.
SEL in the Community Series features JR Inman and Quincy Douby
Earlier this month, professional basketball players Quincy Douby and JR Inman joined Brandon Frame , Deputy Director of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) for a conversation about the intersection of SEL and sports. Presented in partnership with Playbook, Inman and Douby discussed the social and emotional skills they developed through their time playing basketball as young people and how these skills have helped them in their personal and professional lives. Watch Douby and Inman in conversation with Brandon Frame below:
Helping Young Women Redefine the Girl Code
Dozens of young women attended the 2020 Virtual Girls Conference, Girl Code 101: Redefining the Girl Code Narrative on May 27th. Powered by the UA and Dangers of the Mind Social-Emotional Learning Forum , the conference featured workshops and panel discussions with successful women from the political, mental health, beauty, and nonprofit sectors. Ayesha K. Faines , founder of Love Power, and actress and comedian Jazmin Brown delivered powerful keynote speeches encouraging young women to recognize their own power and love and trust themselves and each other. Watch the keynote delivered by Ayesha K. Faines below:
Building a Better Brother with The Black Man Can
On June 10th, the UA partnered with The Black Man Can to present the annual Building a Better Brother Summit for young men. Under the theme of creating a safe space for young men, the virtual conference featured panel discussions on topics like breaking mental health stigmas, and turning frustration into activism with professionals from the mental health, arts, and nonprofit sectors. Stevon Lewis , licensed family therapist delivered an impactful key note speech about overcoming “imposter syndrome” as young men of color. Watch the 2020 Building a Better Brother Summit below:
Stories from UA schools and UA central were featured in numerous publications over the last month:
  • Thanks to tremendous advocacy by Kevin Brooks, Postsecondary Counselor at UA Bronx Academy of Letters (BAL), and David Garcia-Rosen, Director of School Culture at BAL/Athletic Director of Bronx United, word is out about the city’s decision to slash funding for the Single Shepherd program, which provided critically-needed guidance counselors in the South Bronx and Brownsville. Brooks’s response to the cuts was featured in the NY Daily News and in a video segment on Fox 5. Additionally, a letter signed by over 60 staff members was sent to Chancellor Carranza, and a petition created by Garcia-Rosen has garnered over 4,000 signatures to date. 
  • Big congratulations to Mohammad Ahmad of UA Bronx Academy of Letters for receiving the Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award from Amazon, one of only 10 awards given across the country. We highly recommend clicking to see the moment when Mohammad heard the news…. Live on a Zoom call with his BAL fam!
  • Kirk Schneider, a teacher at UA Gateway School for Technology is featured in the Wall Street Journal discussing the challenges of teaching during COVID19, while vowing to fight for students alongside his fellow teachers.
  • Tara Itzkovitz, an educator at the UA School for the Performing Arts, shares how her family-survival story has enabled authentic, safe conversations with students.
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