Storefront Academy opened in 1966, when New York-born poet Ned O’Gorman was looking for a nurturing alternative to over-crowded, under-performing public schools. Initially an after school drop-in center, it evolved into a comprehensive tuition-free private school serving pre-K through 8th grade students, relying entirely on private funding, as well as NYC public services, to ensure that its students did not have to pay to receive a quality education. Harlem has gentrified considerably since the 1960s, leaving many of its public schools to fall behind, disproportionately affecting students of color whose families have been in the neighborhood for decades. Storefront Academy was a haven where rigorous and community-focused education was not a pricy privilege for the elite, but a right for all.
The school emphasizes small classes and a family-like community, which is easy to feel in their unique setting. Located at 129th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem, the school comprises four adjacent converted Brownstones painted with bright blue accents, the street out front serving as their playground. With one classroom per grade level, and kids racing up and down wooden staircases to class or lounging with teachers on the front stoops at recess, the school really does feel like a home.
Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders were raising baby ducks and chicks when I visited the school in the spring of 2018.
Sadly, Storefront Academy Harlem had to close its doors at the end of 2018, due to budget constraints. While there is hope that the closing is temporary and the school may reopen as a public charter school, for now its doors remain shut. You can make a donation to the school here.
“Hamomi Children’s Centre improves the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in Nairobi, Kenya by allowing them to develop into adults with the skills necessary to improve their own social and economic condition.”
Hamomi’s innovative school model starts by providing students with comprehensive services like food, clothing, and medical care. Students receive free primary education and scholarships to attend secondary school. The school also invests in social enterprises like selling cooking stoves, which brings in money for programs and creates jobs for alumni. With the proceeds from their micro-enterprises, Hamomi has been able to purchase land, construct permanent buildings, hire more teachers, fund university scholarships for students, and ensure a sustainable future.
Soft Power Education works to break the cycle of poverty in Uganda’s rural areas, without reliance on foreign NGOs, by cultivating skills and leveraging community partnerships. Their programming focuses on three key related areas:
1) Alternative Education - Supplementing mainstream education with innovative ideas;
2) Livelihoods - Empowering people to drive forward their own development;
3) School Infrastructure - Providing safe, clean and inspiring learning environments.
Li’l Stories is a NYC-based storytelling program and language arts framework for elementary schoolers. Through the process of storytelling, Li’l Stories prepares children to be thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators. In collaboration with NYC public schools, they run storytelling week-long labs that make learning a creative and collaborative process. Through collective story creation, students learn to think critically and creatively, communicate their ideas, collaborate with peers, solve problems, and navigate digital resources.
As an arts-integration program, students begin the process by reviewing recent academic content to mine ideas for their stories.
Students also use game elements like “story cubes” to generate character ideas for their stories.
Using a custom-design Li’l Stories storyboard, students work in groups to map out and draw their story on sticky notes.
Emphasizing collaboration and communication, students take turns adding to their collective storyboard, including facts and ideas from their academic coursework.
In one of many variations (based on classroom need) students can transfer their images to a writing board and develop a written version of their story.
Students share their stories with peers to get feedback before recording the story in a digital app.