Brooklyn Democracy Academy
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Hydroponic gardening, college trips
Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a transfer school, caters to students over the age of 16 who have struggled in traditional high schools but still want a high school diploma. Classes are small, between 20 to 25 students, and the school day runs a little longer than at most schools.
Students plant lettuce, cabbage and bok choy in water in the school’s hydroponics lab, according to the yearly plan. They learn chemistry, life science and math as they garden. Teachers try to make classes interesting to keep teens engaged so they finish school, according to the mission statement on the New Visions website. New Visions has created more than 100 schools for the city’s highest-needs students.
Students face many challenges. Some come in without any high school credits, while others arrive with just a few credits needed to graduate. Counselors from the JCCA (Jewish Child Care Association) work one-on-one with students, monitoring attendance, making home visits and arranging for college guidance and visits. Many students get paid internships at local businesses and organizations.
Despite these efforts to engage students, attendance is well below the citywide average. Some students work online from home if they find getting to school difficult because of illness, a family member’s illness, or if they have given birth, according to the yearly plan.
Students practice for college tests three hours a week during the school day. They go on college trips to St. John’s University, Hofstra, Delaware State University and Nassau Community College, among others. Some go to two- or four-year colleges and some find jobs after graduation.
In addition to core academics, activities include boys’ and girls’ basketball, chess club, cheerleading, step team, annual talent and fashion shows, choir and theater, according to the yearly plan.
A center for parents and guardians opened in the school building in 2017. It offers financial, immigration, education, health and wellness services.
[photo of a college trip from the school's Facebook page]
ADMISSIONS: The school accepts students who are 16 or older throughout the school year. To apply, students must give transcripts and attendance history and take a vocabulary and reading test. Both students and parents are interviewed. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, March 2018)