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Futures So Bright | Visiting ExpandED Schools

ExpandED Schools

Junior Board members Jack Terranova and Cole Weston recently had the opportunity to speak about their college and career experiences with third, fourth and fifth grade students at PS 186/NIA Brooklyn in Bensonhurst.

Jack Terranova

Jack Terranova

Junior Board Member Jack Terranova

Having parents that both grew up in neighboring Sheepshead Bay and attended Brooklyn College, this was a special chance for me to connect with local students and hopefully make a lasting impression about the benefits of hard work and persistence. I have always had a deep interest in education, not only in the classroom, but also on the playing field, in the workplace and anywhere else that one can make an impact. I approached this opportunity with the intention of having a conversation rather than holding a lecture.

Ms. Altilio, the vice principal, welcomed us warmly and led us to where students were attending Saturday classes following New York state ELA exams. The teachers had allocated about 30 minutes for Cole and myself to spend with students in each of the three grade levels. The first thing I noticed was the students’ responsiveness to their teachers. The class quickly shifted from the lesson in which they were engaged and gave their full attention to my presentation. I began by talking about my college experiences and then moved onto my career and “adult life.”

I tried to keep the students engaged by asking them questions about what they are learning. We talked about their hobbies and aspirations, and how these relate to college and work life. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of many of their responses. Questions such as “Is college stressful?” and “Are there alternatives to a college degree?” showed that these students are already starting to form very mature viewpoints of what to expect in the coming years. Many of the students shared career interests that were very specific (one student even said that she wants to be a surgeon, and that she has started reading the requisite biology books!)

On our way out, we discussed with Ms. Altilio some of the other initiatives the school had in place. The hallways were full of collages, paintings and other projects the student had been working on during Saturday classes and in expanded learning time.

My day at PS 186 gave me good peek inside ExpandED Schools. I look forward to participating in similar opportunities in the future, seeing first-hand how the hard work of teachers and educators are paying off for the next generation.


Cole Weston

Cole Weston

Junior Board Member Cole Weston (right)

I began each lesson with a simple question: “What comes to mind when I say the word ‘college?’” After an initial period of silence when no students volunteered to answer, the teachers reminded them about their frequent college references and classroom discussions. Once the silence was broken, their answers poured in and ranged from “College is four years” to “You can discover what you want to pursue in college.” Other answers addressed more nuanced observations of adulthood such as “you get bigger and taller in college.”

I spoke about friendship, community, academic curiosity, independence, maturation and work ethic. One student was fascinated by the option to specialize her academic pursuits, which in her case would be ancient Egyptian history. Some students asked, “Do you learn to drive in college?” and “How much food is there?” Others asked insightful and mature questions about financial aid and handling stress levels. One child even challenged me on the value of a college education versus a specialized vocational path.

It was tremendously rewarding to be surrounded by students actively thinking about their futures, and their indefatigable teachers who worked to instill such vital lessons.


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