girl power

Brooklyn students run with U.N. charge to honor young women

Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn's student government members organized the school's celebration of the First International Day of the Girl on Thurtday.

Principal Talana Bradley stood in front of her students on Thursday waving a copy of the day’s top news story, about the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan.

Yousafzai was shot by Taliban extremists because she advocated for women’s education in Pakistan, Bradley told the all-female student body at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn.

“We take for granted being in a place that not only allows you to be educated but promotes success and greatness,” Bradley said.

Bradley’s exhortations kicked off the Williamsburg school’s celebration of the “International Day of the Girl,” a day that the United Nations designated last December. The school drew high-profile women to an event that 10th-grade student government members had spent nine months planning.

The school currently serves students in grades six through 10, but it will expand to 12th grade by 2014. The 10th grade students behind today’s events will be part of the school’s first graduating class.

A morning assembly, live-streamed to the other four Young Women’s Leadership Schools in New York City, featured prominent guests including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Ann Shoket, editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine. It also featured some mixed messages about what young women should value most, but the bottom line was clear: Girls can change the world.

“This day exemplifies what we value about student leaders,” said assistant principal Cristina Jacobs. “These students want to see change in their community — their desire to see this day is really the reason we did it.”

Back in February, the “Day of the Girl” celebration was just a “small seed of an idea,” Bradley said. But she said the students ran with the idea, meeting over the summer with student government advisor Rebekah Corace to write their own proclamation of the “International Day of the Girl” that Quinn read aloud at the assembly. They also wrote and performed an original song, “Beautiful Here We Go,” that urged young women to feel confident in their inner beauty.

“It was a lot of work,” said 10th-grader Destine Brown about the planning process. “It seemed to go by so quick — like we didn’t have time to plan.”

Jacobs said other students’ participation in the assembly exemplified the way students at YWLS grow to think like leaders.

“The sixth-graders were full of energy; they knew it was an exciting day,” she said. “But the 10th-graders were asking important questions like ‘Where did you go to college?’ and ‘How do you start a business?’ I like looking at the range and seeing how they are going to grow over the years.”

This kind of growth isn’t measured by the city’s annual school progress reports, which only evaluate growth largely based on student test scores. YWLS’s middle school this year received a “C” on its progress report, after getting an A in 2011.

Bradley said the grading system does not the ways that her students demonstrate excellence, such as by showing leadership.  But she said she wouldn’t want the school to be judged on student leadership efforts if it meant that the motivation for such efforts didn’t come from the students’ own passions.

“I don’t want students to begin to do things because of public recommendation or a ranking system,” she said.  “I would never want the girls to do things just so that the school looks good — they should do things so that they can realize their dreams.”

And there was no shortage of dreams at the “International Day of the Girl” assembly. The students who organized the event want to bring the “Day of the Girl” into the rest of the community, starting with the Williamsburg Community Center right next to their school.

“Our goal is for everyone to know that every girl across the globe is amazing,” said Deida St. Auge, a 10th-grader.

A Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn student is flanked by (L-R) Ann Tisch, the network's founder and president; City Council speaker Christine Quinn, and Seventeen Magazine editor-in-chief Ann Shoket on Thursday.

To help spread the message, Quinn spoke about her own all-girls education and said she hopes to see some of the student leaders at City Hall next summer as part of the City Council’s high school internship program.

Seventeen Magazine’s Shoket focused on how young women are changing the world through communication. She encouraged the audience to start develop a social media presence and interact with their favorite celebrities on Twitter. She also told those interested in fashion and beauty to become experts by reading and writing about the subjects, and she mentioned that Seventeen has open casting calls for models.

Shoket was accompanied by Lindsay Brown, who beat over 70,000 applicants to win the magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” competition.

Brown spoke about losing her full scholarship at the University of Notre Dame when she quit the school’s soccer team to focus on teaching soccer to girls in Nepal, Cambodia, and Nairobi. Brown encouraged the Young Women’s Leadership students to “dream big.”

According to school administrators, that won’t be a problem for their students.

“At this school, we never have to think about what we’ll do next, because the students will do that,” Jacobs said.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.