Young Voices Academy of the Bronx
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Students are given leadership roles to build character
Not enough room for all kindergartners who want in
True to its name, Young Voices Academy of the Bronx strives to give kids a “voice” in what goes on at school. They serve as student ambassadors and fill out surveys about activities they’d like to explore. When they wanted more science activities after school, the principal bought a flight simulator for them; when kids were curious about Lacrosse, she purchased the equipment needed to play the game.
“Our kids really dictate what happens in the school,” said Principal Nadia Cruz-Perez who was born and raised in the Bronx by grandparents who spoke little English. Her first teaching job was at CS 6, the same school she attended as a child. She earned her BA from Long Island University, an MA in literacy studies from Lehman College and an MA in administration and supervision from Mercy College.
In some ways the school’s culture is traditional: students recite the school creed every morning, rules are posted even in bathroom stalls, and the building has a store where kids can buy items based on points they earn for good behavior. Yet select students also train to be leaders in the Brain Power Wellness program. They visit classrooms to lead short mindfulness activities, such as yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises meant to help kids focus, relax and get along.
The school celebrates its ethnic diversity; it has large Middle Eastern and Albanian populations. The Parent Teacher Association is the “most diverse we’ve ever had,” said Cruz-Perez, with representatives of every ethnicity, who help plan a huge multicultural event. Parents are invited to character-building assemblies, and publishing celebrations of children's writing. They help out on Fun Fridays, when kids meet in student government, play in the band, or practice math or reading skills through activities and games.
The new building, opened in 2013, includes a science lab and music room but classroom space is tight. “We take up every inch of this building,” the principal said. Kindergarten is always at capacity with 25 students per class. About a dozen children are turned away each year and end up at other local schools, such as PS 105.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school. For information, contact: [email protected] (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview with the principal, October 2019)