Renovated Courtyard to Benefit Children From K-8 School and New State-of-the-ArtBirth-5 Center
Brownsville Courtyard Legacy Project Part of Transformative New Early Childhood Initiative Opening This Fall That Will Serve Hundreds of Students and 1,000 Early Childhood Leaders Over the Next Five Years
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, and Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Ronald E. Richter today unveiled a newly renovated courtyard in Brownsville to be shared by P.S. 41 Francis White, a K-8 school, and FirstStepNYC, a transformative new birth-5 center set to open in the building this September. The courtyard renovation was funded through the generous support from Major League Baseball and the New York Mets. Chancellor Walcott and Commissioner Richter were joined by Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets Jeff Wilpon, Executive Vice President of Business for Major League Baseball Tim Brosnan, Sharon Robinson, Daughter of Jackie Robinson and MLB Educational Programming Consultant, P.S./I.S. 41 Principal Theresa Siegel, Chief Program Officer Renee Skolaski of SCO Family of Services, which will operate the birth-5 center, and families from the P.S./I.S. 41 and future FirstStepNYC communities.
The school’s interior courtyard is a state-of-the-art learning environment that contains a play area, nature center for gardening and science activities, and a literacy corner to be used both by children of FirstStepNYC and those enrolled in P.S./I.S. 41.The courtyard was constructed through a partnership between the DOE, ACS, MLB, and the New York Mets as part of the MLB’s All-Star Legacy Projects and Charitable Initiatives. Symbolizing the partnership between the schools and community, participants held a service event in the newly renovated courtyard, which included stenciling planters and planting flowers for the nature center. Children decorated rocks to be placed in the soil.
An Educare-inspired initiative, first announced in September 2012, FirstStepNYC will provide comprehensive services to neighborhood students in Brownsville, Brooklyn from birth through age five. Through private philanthropy and a public-private partnership between the DOE, NYC Administration for Children’s Services, and SCO Family of Services, FirstStepNYC will offer full-day, year-round early care and education in state-of-the-art facilities. FirstStepNYC will serve an incoming class of 58 students in the fall, and by adding a cohort per year, will enroll hundreds of children within the first five years of operation. SCO Family of Services, which has provided programs and services in the Brownsville community for more than three decades, will operate the program. SCO currently serves 1,300 local children through its two EarlyLearn NYC centers, a transfer high school, family child care, foster care, and child welfare preventative services.
Involving families in early childhood learning is central to FirstStepNYC. Parents will be partners and the extensive services will empower families to create a culture of involvement beginning at a child’s birth. Every family will be assigned a Family Support Specialist and will be offered workshops to encourage awareness around financial literacy, home safety, and health.
A new, first-of-its kind Early Childhood Leadership Institute will also be developed at the site. The institute will train, support, and develop over 1,000 educators over the next five years, creating an early childhood talent pipeline for schools throughout the City. Observation rooms in the birth-5 center will support teaching across the five boroughs through development and dissemination of best practices. An external research partner will evaluate both the birth-5 program as well as the institute to generate findings that can be implemented widely throughout the City.
“Preparing all of our students to be college and career-ready is a long journey, and for the students it serves, FirstStepNYC will be just that – a first step towards that goal,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “The close partnership between the birth-5 center and K-8 school will support children and families as they transition from one phase of their educational path to the next. The renovation of this courtyard will strengthen that relationship by providing a communal space for the school and early childhood center to support student learning at various ages. As we’ve delivered a remarkable transformation in our schools, we’ve made significant strides in closing the achievement gap. The shared courtyard and FirstStepNYC project reflect our unrelenting commitment to continue that work.”
“We are deeply grateful to Major League Baseball for their support of the courtyard renovation, which will help to foster learning here at FirstStepNYC through its literacy corner and nature center,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Ronald E, Richter. “Studies have shown that 90% of brain development occurs by the age of five, and high quality early care and education closes the learning gap for disadvantaged children, which makes FirstStepNYC and our EarlyLearn NYC so critical. The work of the Early Childhood Leadership Institute here at FirstStepNYC will also reap benefits for our EarlyLearn providers, helping them to better prepare and teach our youngsters for school and beyond.”
“SCO Family of Services is pleased to partner with the Department of Education and the Administration for Children's Services to open FirstStepNYC in Brownsville where we will provide high-quality early education and support to young children and their families to put them on a sure path to school success,” said SCO Executive Director Gail Nayowith. “FirstStepNYC is a wonderful opportunity to bring talented teachers, strong curriculum and supports for healthy development to young families in Brooklyn.”
About half of the achievement gap between black and white high school students is present before students even reach kindergarten and the early childhood gap forms as early as 18 months and widens over time. By serving students from as young as six-weeks old, FirstStepNYC will tackle that trend by targeting students who might otherwise be vulnerable. Research from leading economists shows that every dollar spent on high-quality childhood programs for disadvantaged children creates over seven dollars in future savings. Student enrollment at FirstStepNYC is based on income requirements and employment status. Siblings of current P.S./I.S. 41 students will have priority.
FirstStepNYC represents yet another commitment by the City to enhance and expand early childhood education. After investing $20 million in 4,000 new full-day, pre-k seats across the five boroughs this fall, the DOE has allocated $10 million to this initiative. Private philanthropy also has contributed to FirstStepNYC, with the MLB and New York Mets generously contributing a combined $300,000 to the renovation of the courtyard.