NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Twenty-four incoming New Rochelle High School ninth graders benefited from a summer program run by the Guidance Center of Westchester and New Rochelle High School Administration.
NRHS House Principal Shomari Akil oversaw the program with a focus on leadership and life skills. In addition to math, English and science, students learned public speaking, effective communication and the importance of treating others with respect. They also learned skills such as how to manage finances.
Student Celene Viveros, who moved to New Rochelle from Colombia a year ago, said the lessons helped her improve her English. She also learned life lessons from the Friday class trips they took to several places, such as the Science Barge, a floating greenhouse on the Hudson River in Yonkers.
"You have to be responsible, respectful and on time," she said.
The six-week course took place at Albert Leonard Middle School. During one class, Heather Brown, a Guidance Center of Westchester college and career instructor, inspired her students to explore the different ways that people learn by flipping roles, asking them to teach her something of their choosing. The students taught her how to sing a song, set up a beat with computer apps and block in a football game.
"They're more passionate about it," Brown said. "They work a little harder because they chose the topics."
The program evolved this year in several ways.
The City School District of New Rochelle Math and ELA departments designed the courses to provide the students with a realistic idea of high school rigor and expectations. The guidance course was overhauled with a restorative justice component that supports community building, decision making and conflict resolution.
Student Carlos Vargas took to heart the lessons about respect.
"I listen to people if they need to talk," he said. "I help my little brother, too. I teach him how to respect people."