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Q: I just read your comments about the the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) programs. My daughter and son have received so many different "opportunities" and it is indeed difficult to discern the value of these programs. So what is your opinion about Model United Nations (MUN) programs that provide intensive "opportunities" throughout the country? My daughter is involved in MUN at her high school and wants to develop her skills in this area. Will participating in a program such as this add value to her resume?

A: Participation in Model UN could add value especially if she has had a leadership role in the organization or has participated actively (that is, other than just going to meetings). The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) and other "honor" programs, such as the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF), offer worthwhile experiences—but at a steep price. One of the organizers of the NYLF, in fact, is the Envision company which, as a dot-com, is interested mostly in making profits for itself. The experiences offered by these programs might be enjoyable, but they will NOT help anyone get into college.

Model United Nations (MUN), on the other hand, is a legitimate activity that originated around the time the UN did. In 1927, a model League of Nations was founded, followed by the Model UN in the late 1940s. Many high schools and colleges offer their students MUN as one of their extra-curricular activities. Here, students experience simulated UN sessions and learn about world affairs, decision-making processes, negotiation and diplomacy. Being involved in MUN during high school is considered an excellent activity, equal to being involved in the orchestra, an athletic team, the debating society, a theatrical production or any other group demanding a commitment of time and brainpower.

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February break is the right time to plan what your children will be doing during the warmer, balmy days of summer. Where to start? Check out our guide to free and low cost programs offered throughout the city. Launched last year, our listings highlight more than 100 free and low-cost programs for children and teens, and include summer and school-year programs in math, science, art, humanities, and academic prep.

To help you get started, here's a sampling of free programs you'll find in our guide:

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(Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Patrick Wall on December 10, 2014)  

The same advocates who helped convince the de Blasio administration to saturate dozens of needy schools with support services now want to make sure the city pulls off its plan.

Even as they applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio for promising to convert 128 schools into service-rich “community schools,” they urged the city on Wednesday to adopt formal guidelines to make sure the schools have similar standards and practices. Other cities that have embraced this model, such as Cincinnati and San Francisco, set official community-school policies, the advocates said.

The call for guidelines, which advocates wrote themselves and said they will ask the city’s education-policy board to adopt if agency officials do not, reflects the delicate position that community school proponents find themselves in. After failing to sell the previous administration on this model, they want to show their support for one that has finally embraced it, while making sure that it is rolled out successfully and with the input of parents and advocates. And they want to guarantee that the community school model continues even after their ally leaves office.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced his strategy to support the city's schools that are "most in need of help." In conjunction with some additional coaching, oversight and a longer school day, 94 "Renewal Schools" identified for their poor test scores, graduation rates, and School Quality Reviews will receive $150 million to become "Community Schools" that provide additional programs and social services to meet the needs of the "whole child, whole school, whole community."

Yesterday's announcement doubles down on de Blasio's campaign promise to establish 100 new community schools by the end of his first term. This summer, he repurposed state funds dedicated to attendance improvement and dropout prevention into a competitive grant to fund 45 new community schools. When those schools (to be announced soon) and the additional 94 Renewal Schools are underway, the number will far surpass de Blasio's goal and will establish New York City as the largest system of community schools in the nation.

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When I first found out in June that my son’s elementary school would be ending 30 minutes earlier this year and I would have to pick up two children at the same time, ten blocks apart, my first thought, of course, was, “Yes! Now I can harness those superpowers of time travel I always knew I possessed!” Actually, just one word came into my head, and it's unprintable here.

Apparently I’m not alone. According to The Daily News, about 450 schools will be changing their start and end times this year in order to comply with the new UFT contract. In a nutshell, the contract does two things as far as the school day is concerned: First, it elmininates 37.5 minutes each day that teachers were previously devoting to small-group work and tutoring for students who were behind. Second, it reapportions that time for professional development, parent communication, preparing lessons and all the other behind-the-scenes work that teachers must complete but never have time for.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014 10:53

Free summer fun

Perhaps that technology camp you enrolled your nature-loving daughter in just wasn’t quite right, or maybe you’ve noticed your teenager spending too many summer days staring at the wall—or a screen. Luckily, there are still lots of free, engaging summer classes and programs in all five boroughs for kids of all ages. It’s not too late! And don't forget to check out our listing of free educational enrichment programs year-round.

NYC Parks—Free Outdoor Pools

Visit one of New York City's free outdoor pools. Through Sept. 1, NYC Parks’ outdoor pools are offering amenities including free summer swim programs for all ages and abilities and free, healthy summer meals provided by USDA through SchoolFood, a part of the NYC Department of Education for all children 18 years old and under. Download a flyer to find out more about the local pool in your school district. For more information, visit nyc.gov/parks.

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Looking for a summer activity for your middle school student? Sign up now—before June 30—for one of the city's free enrichment programs just announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week.

Eligible students are between the ages of 11–13. Programs begin the first week of July and go through Aug. 22 and are designed to support children of working families. Most run from 9 am to 6 pm, although hours vary. Daily activities include time for reading, writing and STEM (science, math and technology) as well as theater, music, creative arts and sports. Kids take trips around the city and explore different communities. There are programs in all five boroughs, housed at schools or community organizations. Find a list of programs and sites here (PDF).

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Q: I AM SO LOST!! I am a high school sophomore and I am really starting to think about the whole college thing. Generally I'm shy and uncomfortable, but this year I joined Key Club (volunteering) and French Club (which consists of 3 people including myself). I want to find something in school that I can devote a lot of time to, because apparently that's what colleges are looking for, but none of the other clubs interest me. When it comes to French Club, I am even less involved because there are so few people in it. I would try asking friends to come, but they are all in Spanish. One of my friends and I spent the first three meetings or so talking with the advisor about ideas, but none of them ever worked out. I am not much of a leader either, so I don't think I could start my own club. Also I'm not very athletic, so I've just about run out of options. I don't know what to do!!

A: Take it easy! Please do not feel you have run out of options. First of all, the major thing that "colleges are looking for" is a solid transcript. Courses and grades always come first. Yes, extra-curricular activity does play a role in the admissions decision, but there is no hidden agenda. Colleges are not "looking" to see if you are athletic or creative. But they DO want to see if you are looking past yourself.

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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:00

Looking for a job this summer?

If you’re a teen looking for a job this summer, consider applying to the Department of Youth and Community Development’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are eligible to apply for this six-week summer employment program that runs between July and August. Participants are selected through a lottery.

Participants work up to 25 hours a week for six weeks, earning $7.25 per hour. Job sites are spread out across all five boroughs and include government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, museums, nonprofits, small businesses and retailers. Participants may also attend workshops on job readiness, career exploration, and financial literacy. For more information, visit the Department of Youth and Community Development website. The application deadline is April 25, 2014.

For more ideas about what to do during summer vacation, check out Insideschools’ new listing of free summer and after-school programs here.

Published in News and views
Friday, 21 February 2014 11:10

New listing highlights 100+ free programs

We’ve just launched our new listing of free and low-cost summer and after-school programs to help you take advantage of the many extracurricular opportunities offered in the city. 

The listing highlights more than 100 free and low-cost programs, including 11 in math, 41 in science, 21 in art, 21 in the humanities, and 23 in academic prep. We paid special attention to the many programs that focus on math and science, since they have the ability to get students excited about subjects that might not have sparked their interest in the classroom. Last summer we visited several programs to see what children can do after school and during the summer to get engaged in mathematical and scientific activities.

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