ExpandED Schools is dedicated to closing the learning gap by increasing access to enriched education experiences.
Profession: President, ExpandED Schools
Location: New York, New York
What was the first philanthropic gift you ever gave?
I have distinct memories of carrying a UNICEF box when I went trick or treating as a child. I’m sure my contribution to global children’s causes was not significant at that time, but it instilled in me an awareness that giving back was something important.
Tell us about your role giving back with ExpandED Schools.
Seventeen years ago, Herb Sturz, Mimi Corcoran and I co-founded the organization (then known as The After-School Corporation) through a challenge grant from the Open Society Foundations. We created the nation’s first citywide system of K-12 after-school programs. Over time, we leveraged public and private dollars to turn that initial investment into $737,458,810 – just over a 6:1 match.
More importantly, in that time, we have expanded opportunities and helped close the learning gap for more than 800,000 students. We partner with organizations and foundations around the country to advocate for, study and support expanded learning time programs with the belief that all kids deserve a chance to discover their talents and develop their full potential.
What drives your organization’s mission?
The stark reality that children growing up in poverty are likely to suffer a 6,000-hour learning gap by the time they reach 6th grade. This has less to do with time spent in the classroom, and much to do with what happens beyond the traditional school day – enriched learning like summer camp, after-school activities and weekend visits to cultural institutions that their middle-class peers take for granted.
ExpandED Schools is dedicated to closing that gap by expanding the school day and providing enriched learning like photography, salsa dance, debate and robotics, and exposing kids to an array of role models in the form of coaches, tutors and teaching artists.
What are the stories of impact that inspire you?
I’m most gratified when I see and hear about children who have grown in ways that they may not have, had it not been for the enrichments we offer, particularly students with special needs. In fact, when you visit our schools and see the children engaged in hands-on learning, you can’t distinguish the “typical” students from those with learning differences. Every child has potential, but with a narrowed curriculum or lack of access to different modes of expression, that potential can be stifled. I’m thinking particularly of a middle school boy named Brandon who started the school year very shy, very quiet.
Through an expanded day activity, he had the opportunity to become an East Harlem tour guide. By the end of the year, he was gregarious and enthusiastic. Then there’s Jenaba, a 6th-grader in Brooklyn who credits her leadership class with teaching her that her voice is a powerful tool, without needing to raise it, so she feels like she has more self control. Or Amadou, an 8th-grader with some behavioral issues who so looks forward to his cooking class that he’s happy all day in school and better able to focus. I can share many more stories but I think the students say it best. Here are a few of their quotes that have touched me.
“If I wasn’t in expanded time, I’d just be at home, watching TV.”- Anthony, 6th grade
“Step helps me express myself. Everything dissipates. I have no worries. Miss Jennifer is another mom to us. This is another home. We are a family.” – Ashanti, 8th grade
“It makes me feel happy to be in robotics. At the end of a long day when I’m tired, it helps me put all of that away. I want to be a game designer when I grow up.” – Tanjirese
“I like knitting because it helps me focus better in class.” – Alexandria, 6th grade
“Each day, I learn more and more. Each day I’m here, I feel more successful about my life.” – Maurice, 6th grade