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PRESS RELEASE - 10/24/2016


Deb Levy, Director of Communications + Marketing
646 943 8712


Students surprise note senders by writing back with their own advice, career aspirations and reflections on the first day of middle school

NEW YORK, NY — More than 150 6th graders attending Creston Academy, an expanded learning school in the Bronx, got something unexpected during their first week of middle school: a personalized note from a stranger. The notes were part of an effort by ExpandED Schools, a New York City nonprofit dedicated to closing the learning gap, to "brighten a tween’s day and impact their future."

The organization, having studied growth mindset, was inspired by research showing that students who receive encouragement show significant improvements both in their beliefs about their ability to be successful, as well as their actual academic performance. So ExpandED Schools created a campaign encouraging supporters everywhere to send a note, via a fillable web form, welcoming a 6th grader to middle school.

The notes, which came from people all over the country and even around the world, included reflections of the sender's own adolescent years, long-ago career aspirations and the best advice they had received at that age. Memories ranged from favorite bands to fashion styles of yesteryear, and the advice varied from "eat a peck of dirt, it won't hurt you" to "think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world." The notes were signed by the sender's first name, last initial and job title, with the hopes that it would spur conversation about possible career paths.

ExpandED Schools currently supports 50 schools and community organizations in high-poverty neighborhoods across New York City who partner together to expand the school day and enhance the curriculum with arts, sports and personalized hands-on learning. The organization chose to pilot this campaign in a single school, Creston Academy, to determine whether adolescents, and their teachers, would be receptive to hearing from people they've never met.

The hope was that the notes would be well received, but it was a surprise when a large envelope arrived at the organization's office several weeks later containing more than one hundred hand-written responses. As it turned out, the notes became integral to a lesson on letter writing as the 6th graders composed thank yous to those who had written to them.

Their words were poignant and heartwarming, proving that this campaign did in fact make an impact. And proving that no matter where someone goes to school, or in what decade they grow up, there's a connection to be made between those who are just entering adolescence and those who survived it.

"It was really good for them to have an opportunity to reflect on others who have been in their shoes," said Leo Singleton, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher at Creston Academy. "It helped to calm them when they were nervous and feel that everything was going to be okay."


About ExpandED Schools

ExpandED Schools is a NYC-based nonprofit dedicated to closing the learning gap by increasing access to enriched education experiences. In school, after school and during the summer, ExpandED Schools reimagines learning time, seeking to ensure that all kids have opportunities to discover their talents and develop their full potential. Since its founding in 1998, when it created the nation's first citywide system of K-12 after-school programming, the organization has expanded opportunities for more than 800,000 kids in the belief that all children, from every zip code, deserve opportunities to discover their talents and develop their full potential. To learn more, please visit www.expandedschools.org

About The New York Life Foundation

Inspired by New York Life's tradition of service and humanity, the New York Life Foundation has, since its founding in 1979, provided more than $220 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. The Foundation also encourages and facilitates the community involvement of employees and agents of New York Life through its Volunteers for Good program. To learn more, please visit www.newyorklifefoundation.org