Rapper Dee-1 and Pricewaterhouse Coopers were on our Harlem campus recently teaching our students about financial literacy at a special assembly with our 2nd through 8th grade students.
As part of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Financial Literacy Month celebrations, some of our students on our Harlem campus took part in a conversation about borrowing, savings and paying for college with PwC Partner Mitch Roschelle and Rapper Dee-1.
On behalf of everyone at Storefront Academy Harlem, I am pleased to share with you our 2015-2016 Annual Report.
I was appointed Interim Executive Director of the Storefront in early 2017, and I am reminded every day of the Storefront’s legacy and our unique place in the world of education. Since our founding over 50 years ago, Storefront Academy Harlem has been committed to empowering children who face tremendous obstacles in pursuit of their education. At the Storefront, we believe that we must prepare our students not only academically but also socially. We add a distinctive focus on character, building core values that teach our students to navigate difficult situations and make thoughtful decisions.
The work we do, and the depth and breadth of that work, depends on our donors. We are grateful for your continued partnership and support. With your help, we will continue to expand the reach of our mission, giving an excellent education to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn and grow into their most successful selves. Click here to read this year's annual report.
Interim Executive Director
As part of its Principal of the Week series, DNAinfo New York sat down with Storefront Academy Harlem Principal Alexis Thomason to talk about her role as principal as well as Storefront Academy's achievements.
The Board of Trustees of Storefront Academy is pleased to announce that Dr. Karen H. Putnam has been named Interim Executive Director. In her role, Dr. Putnam will direct the strategic direction, programs, and operations for Storefront Academy Harlem and Storefront Academy South Bronx. Dr. Putnam will collaborate closely with the schools' trustees and senior leadership in continuing to expand the schools’ impact, and strengthening Storefront Academy's mission and work in underserved communities.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Karen to the Storefront Academy family,” said Ray Cameron, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Storefront Academy Harlem. “Karen brings a wealth of experience and expertise that we know will continue to allow us to provide an invaluable education for children in Harlem and the South Bronx.”
“Working at Storefront Academy is a homecoming of sorts,” said Dr. Putnam, “continuing a connection I made as head of the Central Park Conservancy. My personal priority then was reaching out to families and children north of 110th Street. As Interim Executive Director of Storefront Academy, my goal is to advance the shared mission of Storefront Academy Harlem and Storefront Academy South Bronx, both dedicated to educating the whole child, academically and socially.”
Dr. Putnam has extensive experience in the not-for-profit world, including higher education, the arts, social services, and public-private partnerships. In addition to working at Harvard and Yale Universities, she served as Vice Director of The Brooklyn Museum and President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. At the Conservancy, Dr. Putnam worked with cultural and civic organizations in Harlem, focusing on families and children. During that tenure, she was named a partner in the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Subsequently, as Principal and Director of Philanthropic and Family Wealth Stewardship Services at Bessemer Trust, she served on The Rockefeller University Committee on Trust and Estate Gift Plans, The Professional Advisors Council of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., and the Professional Advisory Council of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dr. Putnam also wrote the book, “50 Best Places to Enjoy Central Park and Other Green Retreats,” published by Rizzoli Universe Publishing.
Dr. Putnam has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and a B.A. in Philosophy from Wellesley College.
The fourth grade class on our Harlem campus wrote nonfiction books about topics they knew a lot about, and had a publishing party with their families to celebrate their work. The topics ranged from video games, to cooking, to how to prank people.
Books and literature are a big part of what makes the Storefront special. Indeed, when the Storefront first opened, it was as a library. It was a priority from the beginning to introduce the world beyond our Harlem neighborhood to the children in the community through books.
Our pre-kindergarten class paid a visit to Red Rosster, where they toured the restaurant and got to meet the owner and chef, Marcus Samuelsson. They had the pleasure of dining at the chef's table, where they could see their food being made. They enjoyed mac and cheese along with chicken and waffles.
As part of our Black History Month celebrations, members of the Black Employee Networking Group at Morgan Stanley visited our Harlem campus for an activity with our 5th through 8th grade boys. The group discussed confronting and overcoming fears, and made masks to represent the men that they are and want to become. At Storefront Academy Harlem, 100% of our male students graduate from high school, significantly higher than the national average of 59% for men of color.
Longtime corporate partner Morgan Stanley talked with our principal and some of our 8th grade students about some of the challenges they face and how our school sets them up for success despite those challenges.
Storefront Academy partners with instructors from Rosie’s Theater Kids to work weekly with fifth grade students to provide comprehensive classes in music, dance and drama with a goal of inspiring excellence, motivating learning, uplifting the human spirit, building confidence, and sparking a lifelong appreciation for the arts. At the end of this year's program, students perfromed songs and routines they learned including "Consider yourself" from the film Oliver and "Seize the day" from the Broadway hit musical Newsies.
Ms. Keren joined the Storefront family 24 years ago. She had just moved to New York City with her family and was looking for a teaching job. A friend invited her to visit the Storefront and she has not left since.
“I was teaching older children to begin with, and my teaching experience was you do your work, you grade your students, you write report cards for them,” Ms. Keren said. “You do what you need to do, and you go home, and you come back and do your job, and go back home, but when I came to the Storefront, I actually learned a lot of teaching here.”
Ms. Keren joined the Storefront when it was a budding beacon of hope in Harlem, and said that the Storefront’s vision is what has kept her going each day.
“The goal in teaching the children at the Storefront is that every child gets an opportunity and a chance to be the best they can be no matter what,” she said. “They may not all get there at the same time, they may not get there the same way, may not take the same route, but our intention, our hope, and our aim is that each child who comes through the school, when they leave here, they'll have a sense of accomplishment based on what they could do, not so much on what the world says they should or could do, not so much on what anyone else says they could or couldn't do, but a sense of knowing that we somehow helped them or contributed to them becoming the person that they want to be.”
Ms. Keren remembers the Storefront as a safe place in its earliest days in Harlem.
“We would come in in the morning, walk on the street, and you felt like you'd come home to your friends, and neighbors, and family,” Ms. Keren recalls. “Anyone could come into the lunchroom and have lunch or coffee or just sit around and talk. The children were warm and friendly. They loved to be here, and they loved their teachers, and they loved their environment. You could see that they were feeling that this is a place they want to be.
We would come and sit on the stoop. There was no written schedule. If you needed to sit on the street and talk to the children, you sat on the street and talked to the children. If a parent needed to be listened to, you'd stop and listen to that parent. That's not to say that there was no schooling going on, but I think everything that happened at the time was based on the needs of the children and the community.”
Teaching at the prekindergarten level will be a great finish to Ms. Keren’s teaching career.
“I love being around the little ones because they're innocent, and they're so eager to learn,” she says. “I can see their characters forming. I enjoy that I'm part of creating who they're going to be when they grow up. They're brilliant, really brilliant, and a joy to be around. They learn fast, they enjoy every moment of the day. They tell you openly and freely how they feel and what they want and don't want, and it's a wonderful, wonderful experience.”