Since 2012, through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Feerick Center has operated the LEEAP Education Program. LEEAP Ed. recruits, trains, places, and supports volunteers who assist students and families with low incomes in navigating New York City’s complex public high school application process. During the 2017-2018 school year, LEEAP Ed. expanded its partnership with the GO Project. In the fall, volunteers worked with eighth-graders who were undergoing the process; this spring, volunteers are working with sixth- and especially seventh-graders to improve understanding of the process. The center thanks GO Project staff Alexis Geslani and Olivia Nunez and especially Ered Massie, the associate director of GO Families, for supporting LEEAP Ed. volunteers and their work with middle-school students. Azalea Capers is a 2017-2018 AmeriCorps VISTA member, and she is coordinating the LEEAP Education Program. For more information on the LEEAP Ed. Program, please contact Azalea.
Azalea Capers conducted the interview with GO Project staff members Alexis Geslani, the associate director of communications and marketing, and Olivia Nunez, senior director of community engagement.
Can you briefly describe the GO Project and its mission?
The GO Project shapes the futures of under-resourced New York City public school children by providing critical academic, social, and emotional support starting in the early elementary years. GO provides year-round educational and family support services to children who are performing below grade level and equips them with the confidence and skills needed to succeed at school, at home, and in life.
Why does the GO Project feel it is important to offer LEEAP Ed. Access to high school sessions to its students?
The GO Project student support and growth model is focused on the whole child. The project provides family and student support throughout the natural and sometimes challenging transitions in their lives, such as the transition from middle to high school. One of our major program goals is to have 85% of GO Middle students attain admission to strong public high schools; one way that we support student success in their high school choice process is by partnering with community organizations that have targeted, structured interventions in this area, such as the LEEAP Ed. Access to High School workshops. Our students receive focused, small group support from LEEAP’s trained volunteers so they can be better informed about and, ultimately, be more empowered in the high school choice process.
What would you describe as the most memorable moment of working with LEEAP Ed on this effort?
GO Project serves a significant number of students with IEPs (special education plans and services); 71% of our current eighth graders have IEPs. There is a great deal of misinformation about what high schools, services, and future opportunities are available for students with IEPs. Through the program, several of our eighth-grade students learned that, despite their IEPs, they could earn a Regents diploma like any other student, and that they could apply to any high school in New York City. (They had previously been told that certain programs were not open to them due to their IEP status.) Their relief and newly found motivation was a very memorable moment of my work with LEEAP Ed.
What feedback have you received from students who have participated in LEEAP Ed. Sessions about the program?
Our eighth graders, who participated in LEEAP Ed. programming in fall 2017, shared that the small group format of the workshops, and the opportunity to spend time using the New York City’s High School Directories in an organized way, helped them to think more concretely about which schools they might apply to.
Would you recommend that other organizations offer LEEAP Ed sessions to their middle school students?
Absolutely! The LEEAP Ed team was responsive and considered the needs of our student body, and the volunteers were prepared to use the curriculum effectively during the limited program time.