How Yonkers Students are Getting Ahead With MBK Saturday Academy

  • Exploring How the MBK Saturday Academy Uses Culturally Relevant Teaching to
    Improve Academic Performance and Personal Growth Among Yonkers' Youth

    Students at Family School 32 learn about dinosaur discoveries during a classroom session.

    (May 15, 2024) On Saturdays in March and April, the halls of Cesar E. Chavez School, Ella Fitzgerald Academy, and Family School 32 in Yonkers buzzed with excitement as eager third to eighth graders participated in the MBK Saturday Bootcamp Academy. As part of the broader My Brother's Keeper initiative, this program specifically aims to uplift young students by integrating academic rigor with culturally relevant teaching methods. Take a look at the program video:

  • In each educational setting, the fusion of creativity and pedagogy revitalized the classroom environment, turning it into a dynamic center for student learning and engagement. Makeba Kirnon-Brooks, a teacher at the MBK Saturday Bootcamp Academy located at Ella Fitzgerald Academy, exemplified this transformation through her innovative approach to literature. She introduced ‘Character Day,’ where students had the opportunity to bring in a book of their preference, craft a concise summary, and embody the central character by dressing up.

    Advancing our MBK's Educational Milestone

    Principal Christine Montero, who oversees the program at Family School 32, outlines its core objectives with respect to MBK’s educational milestones. "We are focused on two of the specific milestones: entering school ready to learn and reading at grade level by third grade," Montero said, detailing how the Academy employs literacy interventions and enriched learning experiences to equip children to excel both academically and socially.

    First grade teacher Bernadette O'Sullivan lent her expertise to this program, engaging students with a curriculum tied to real-world events that boost engagement and retention. A lesson on the recent solar eclipse served to ground astronomical concepts in observable phenomena, making complex ideas accessible and engaging.

    Each Saturday at the Academy revolves around a specific theme. On the day dedicated to dinosaurs, students dove into prehistoric life, engaging deeply with the subject through interactive activities and themed assignments.

    Mrs. O’Sullivan leading an interactive lesson on phonics at Family School 32

    Mrs. O'Sullivan has observed a noticeable transformation in her students’ attitudes towards learning. "I think they love being here. I think that it's activating their prior knowledge. So they're connecting what they're learning during the school day in their home school to what we're currently doing here," she said. This connection not only enhances students’ academic skills but also fosters a genuine enthusiasm for learning, crucial for achieving literacy by third grade.

    Student worksheets from Mrs. O’Sullivan’s lesson on dinosaurs

    Emphasizing Students' Social and Emotional Development

    The program also emphasizes the students' social and emotional development, which Montero identifies as key to the milestone of being ready to learn. Through activities designed to develop cooperation, problem-solving, and self-expression, the curriculum ensures that students receive a comprehensive educational experience.

    At Cesar E. Chavez School, Audra Giuliano’s classroom was filled with collaborative energy as students delved into nonfiction articles centered around sports. Through cooperative learning groups, students extracted key facts, honed their phonics skills through activities, and participated in word sorts. With a strong emphasis on writing and foundational skills, Ms. Giuliano empowered her students to learn beyond the classroom with Clever applications which are accessible to students while at home.

    Kiyoi Tolliver-Vanwright, another dedicated educator who taught at Cesar E. Chavez School, expressed her commitment to personalized instruction through one-on-one instruction and smaller class sizes. Focusing on comprehension, vocabulary development, and in-depth story analysis, Ms. Tolliver-Vanwright ensured that her students are prepared for success in state examinations and beyond.

    Celebrating MBK Saturday Bootcamp Academy's Success

    The success of the MBK Saturday Bootcamp Academy is reflected in the students' growing independence, improved digital literacy, and active participation in class discussions. These accomplishments highlight the program’s effectiveness in not just meeting, but exceeding the goals set by the My Brother's Keeper initiative, establishing a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

    Through its engaging and culturally responsive approach, the MBK Saturday Bootcamp Academy exemplifies the transformative power of targeted educational initiatives within the MBK movement. This program highlights how dedicated educators and carefully designed curricula can profoundly impact students' academic and personal growth, setting them on a path toward future success both inside and outside the classroom. Moreover, it reflects the broader goals of the MBK initiative to ensure that all youth, especially boys and young men of color, have opportunities to improve their life outcomes and overcome barriers to success.