LETTER FROM ADMIN
Dear UASLE Community and Supporters,
We realize it has been quite some time since we’ve sent out a formal newsletter---and now we have a new name! After twelve years as the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice, we are now officially the Urban Assembly School for Leadership and Empowerment. Our new name--created with input from our students,staff, and parent community--more accurately reflects our school’s mission and values.
2020 has been a year like no other, with so many in our community experiencing hardship and loss. While we so desperately miss the laughter and music in our crowded hallways during passing time, the chatter in the cafeteria, and lively discussions in class, among so many other things, we are constantly awed by the the dedication, heartfelt caring, and incredible creativity of our educators and staff and the resiliency and hard work of our students during this trying time. From sending care packages, delivering supplies to student homes, making hundreds of phone calls to ensure our students are supported and have what they need, to creating virtual spaces for students to connect, process, grieve, and even have fun, our teachers, who’ve never confined their role strictly to the classroom, truly deserve to be honored and celebrated for all they’ve given to the UASLE community.
We are ever-adapting to meet the needs of our school community and truly believe we will be stronger for it,from prioritizing funds to purchase and loan out over 250 school laptops (with more on the way) as well as other technology to support the transition to remote learning, to shifting our instructional focus to ground our pedagogy and professional learning in anti-racist and trauma-informed practices. Embracing the Social Justice Learning Standards school-wide allows students to gain a deeper understanding of their own identities, celebrate diversity, examine injustices through a lens of empathy, and demonstrate action toward dismantling injustices. After training much of the staff in Restorative Justice, our school has developed and implemented an Advisory program for all students utilizing Restorative Circles as the basis for culture-building and cultivating relationships between students and staff.We know we still have a long road ahead before we are back in the building at full capacity, but we will continue to innovate, adapt, learn from our mistakes and from one another, in the best interest of our amazing students and school community. We are so immensely grateful to our staff and our supporters.
With best wishes and hope for a brighter New Year,
Nathalie Jufer, Kelliann Moller, and Sage Norman
CELEBRATING THE CLASS OF 2020
Despite the cancellation of an in-person ceremony and year-end celebrations due to Covid-19, the June 25th Class of 2020 Virtual Graduation was a huge success. Assistant Principal Moller put together a fun and beautiful event, complete with spliced together video and photos of the graduates, live speeches, and heartfelt cheering. The keynote address was delivered by the Honorable Leticia James, Attorney General of the State of New York and Ashantie Johnson, Vicky Jiang(Salutatorian) and Ayesha Qayyum (Valedictorian) gave powerful and inspirational student speeches. While the New York City graduation rate is only 75%, on June 25th, 96% of the UASCJ 2020 cohort walked across the virtual stage, and 62% did so with Advanced Regents designation. Even more impressive, while the District 20 graduation rate for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) stands at only 57%, 100% of our UASCJ students with IEPs graduated. We are incredibly proud of ALL of our graduates.
Hon. Leticia James delivering the KeynoteAddress on June 25th
Class of 2020 before schools went remote in March
SENIOR AWARDS NIGHT
On Tuesday, June 16th, we held our annual Senior Awards Night, giving out over 60 academic, community service, athletic, and character awards as well $15,000 in scholarships. The scholarships were entirely funded through the fundraising efforts of the UASLE Advisory Board and UASLE staff members. Ramlah Ahmad, a graduate of Smith College, was our Alumni Speaker and Ramis Subah was our Class of 2020 student speaker.
IT’S THROUGH THEGENEROUS SUPPORT FROM OUR COMMUNITYTHAT WE ARE ABLE TO AWARD $20,000IN SCHOLARSHIPS EACH YEAR. WE HOPEYOUCONSIDER THEGIFTOF DONATING TOTHE AMAZINGSTUDENTS ATUASLE.
CAREER DAY 2020
Each year, we invite volunteers representing a diversity of professions to speak at our Career Day, sharing their unique stories and pathways with our students. It is a day the entire school looks forward to each year. This year, Career Day had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. In response, UASLE students and Board Members decided to try something new, creating an online, virtual platform that brings women together to inspire each other, lift each other up, and reflect on their journeys. We proudly share the resulting project, We Were Seeds.
EQUITY AND ANTI-RACISM WORK AT UASLE
UASLE has expanded our equity and anti-racism work to question and address systems of oppression and white supremacy, working to ensure that our school is a safe and supportive environment for all. This work was originally inspired by the dedication and leadership of a few students engaged in equity work at the district-level, and over the years has evolved into our community’s mission, driven by many stakeholders including students, staff, and administrators. Our focus in past years was to investigate inequity within academic achievement and access to opportunity, which allowed us to rethink systems and structures within our school that perpetuated the inequities we identified. This year, to strengthen the impact of this work, we expanded the team and the reach of our work by developing committees within the Equity Team, including the student-led Equity Action Committee and Student Equity Council, and teacher-led Professional Learning Committee and Advisory Committee. Through all of these initiatives, the UASLE Equity Team and our community as a whole is actively working to achieve our vision of fostering a safe, supportive, inclusive, and empowering environment for all.
OUR BOARD CO-CHAIR, MOLLYZEINS, CAUGHTUP WITH UASLE ALUMNA PRISCILLA AGYEN, A SOPHOMORE AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY WHOIS CURRENTLYSTUDYING AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES AND GOVERNMENT AS WELL ASGLOBAL HEALTH AND HEALTH POLICY.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’RE LEARNING ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
My first semester my first year was a lot of exploration. I wanted to do everything, just like in high school! The whole point of college is to become an expert in one thematic area, and I knew I was going to study African American studies. In one of my classes, we read an article on Ethnicity and Patronage which refers to African tribalism, but it can be applied to the broader ways we all think about our cultures. When people think racially, they’re not able to unite. In this world, people constantly are thinking racially as an us versus them -- that’s a socially constructed concept that needs to be challenged.
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO ATTEND COLLEGE IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC?
Harvard did not invite upperclassmen back for in-person class, but I opted to live on campus. It’s been hard living in isolation but Harvard is like Hogwarts. You get placed in a house and then you stay in that house for the rest of your Harvard career. The house community has been helping everyone who stayed on campus feel cared for during this time. I’m on the Board for the HASA, the Harvard African Student Association. We used to do events multiple times a week. On-campus community groups are trying really hard to build community online. One thing this year has taught me: be more intentional about having community.
NOW THAT YOU’RE IN COLLEGE, WHAT ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE STANDS OUT TO YOU?
The public speaking I learned through Student Government has helped me enormously. I don’t know what I would have done without Ms. Satnick and Ms. Escobar mentoring me and helping me figure out how to send a professional email. The school also prepared me to write -- I had that in the bag! Right from the start, my professors thought my writing was well-developed.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
It’s funny -- I started taking Spanish in high school with a small group of girls during my free lunch period with Miss Hidalgo -- and now, I’ll be interning in Chile! I can’t imagine who I would be if not for UASLE -- I had this tight community that supported me and held me and helped me get this far.
WHAT ARE OUR ELA TEACHERS READING?
Mr. Budde's 7th grade ELA class is reading from the non-fiction book Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity by Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo. Mr. Budde himself is currently reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.
Mr. Wade's 9th grade ELA class is reading When the Moon Was Ours, an LGBTQ+ YA fairy tale, by Anna-Marie Mclemore. Mr. Wade is currently reading everything by Olga Tokarczuk and can't recommend her enough.
Ms. Broderick's 10th graders are reading Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge and her 12th graders are reading Jasmine by Winston Aaron. Ms. Broderick is personally reading Zadie Smith's Intimations and says, "Smith wrote this brief collection of essays during the early months of the lockdown, so it's fresh to read something super relevant right now!"
11th graders in Ms. Boileau's class are reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and in AP they just finished Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Boileau is reading The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and her "ever present New Yorkers."
Ms. Liimatta's 12th graders are reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. On her own time, Ms. Liimatta is working through Octavia E. Butler's The Parable of the Sower and recently participated in book clubs around Glennon Doyle's Untamed and Real Life by Brandon Taylor.
Pre-Covid fun in the cafeteria: Middle school students promoted a healthy and sustainable lifestyle by decorating their reusable water bottles.
In January 2019, Ms. Franqui and Ms. Norman brought students and parents to visit Ms. Norman’s alma mater, Wesleyan University (and visited Nimra Karamat, UASCJ ‘19, a current sophomore at Wes)
October 1st: students lined up ready to start their first day of in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year