A GEM ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE

Their Lower East Side neighborhood is considered less than stellar by some standards, but that doesn’t mean the students there can’t chase and achieve their dreams. As a part of our multi-platform public media initiative, “Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America,” we meet the incredible people of the Cornelia Connelly Center.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on April 25, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> A DISTRESSING STATISTIC ON THE STATE OF NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

ONLY 61% OF STUDENTS RECEIVE HIGH SCHOOL DEGREES.

BUT ONE PRIVATE INSTITUTION THAT AIMS TO HELP YOUNG UNDERPRIVILEGED GIRLS BOASTS A STUNNING 97%. THAT'S 97% GRADUATION RATE.

AS PART OF OF THE ONGOING MULTIPLATFORM PUBLIC MEDIA REPORTING INITIATIVE, CHASING THE DREAM, POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA, WE EXPLORE TODAY THE CORONELLIA CONNOLLY CENTER AN ALL GIRL SCHOOL IN EAST MANHATTAN.

IT FRP CAN CHS GIRLS AT RISK EMPOWERING THEM TO REALIZE POTENTIAL FROM MIDDLE SCHOOL THROUGH COLLEGE AND BEYOND.

THE CENTER TEACHES GRADES 4 THROUGH 8.

BUT DOESN'T STOP THERE.

THEY GO ON TO ATTEND PRESTIGIOUS HIGH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES.

AND THEY ARE CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF SUCCESS.

HERE IS IS THE DIRECTOR.

AND ALL A 6th GRADE STUDENTS AND AN ALAN ALUM NIGH.

THANKS FOR HAVING US.

SO NICE TO HAVE YOU.

I WAS THERE AND VISITED A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO.

IT'S A MARVELLOUS PLACE.

THE FEEL, THE SENSE I GOT OF THE STUDENTS PAN HOW THEY GOT ALONG SO MARVELLOUSLY WITH EACH OTHER AND THE TEACHERS.

IT TO ME WAS JAW-DROPPING.

AND THE NUMBERS I CAN UNDERSTAND AFTER HAVING SEEN THAT.

I GOT A SENSE IN SORT OF WARNEDING THE HALLWAYS AND WATCHING YOU THERE.

THAT YOU FELT THIS WAS MORE THAN JUST A SCHOOL FOR YOU.

YES.

IS THAT.

LIKE A SECOND HOME.

YES.

I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE SOMETIMES.

AND THEN THEY'RE JUST LIKE YOU HAVE TO GO HOME.

I'M LIKE, REALLY DO I HAVE TO.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO PEOPLE SAY I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE SCHOOL.

THEY DON'T SAY THAT A LOT BUT YOU DO.

BUT JESS YOU GIVE US A GREAT SPAN OF HAVING GONE THERE.

RIGHT.

GRADUATED FROM EIGHTH GRADE, HIGH SCHOOL.

YES.

GRADUATED FROM HOLY CROSS LAST YEAR.

YES.

MARVELLOUS SCHOOL.

LET ME ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION I ASKED EARLIER.

. WHEN YOU FIRST SHOWED UP THERE WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT.

I THOUGHT IT WAS A SECOND HOME.

I FELT THAT EVERY PERSON AT THE SCHOOL WANTED TO GET TO KNOW YOU ON A PERSONAL LEVEL.

AND THE FIRST TIME WE HAD THE ASSEMBLY WHEN WE DEBT TOGETHER AND TAKE ATTENDANCE AND ANNOUNCEMENTS, THE FACT THAT EVERY STAFF MEMBER KNEW YOUR NAME AND MENTION YOUR NAME IN THE MORNING TO THE POINT WHERE IF I WAS MISSING PEOPLE WOULD NOTICE, YOU KNOW.

THAT WAS INCREDIBLE TO ME.

WHAT IS THERE THEN IN ADDITION TO THE COMFORT.

UM-HUM.

IN TERMS OF THE ACADEMICS THAT ALLOW YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

I THINK THEY PUSH US.

WHEN I WENT IN AS A FICHGT GRADER I WASN'T PERFORMING ON GRADE LEVEL.

I WOULD BE PULLED OUT OF CLASS TO WORK ON READING, ON MY WRITING.

AND TO ME THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT'S HAPPENED TO ME FOR SOMEONE TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHERE THE GAPS WERE IN MY EDUCATION AND MEET WITH MY PARENTS AND TELL THEM THIS IS WHERE JENNA IS STRUGGLING.

AND WE'LL HELP THEY ARE.

THAT WAS FIFTH DRAD.

BY THE TIME I-IN EIGHTH GRADE AND THEY'RE PUSHING ME TO WORK HARDER AND SEEING SOMETHING IN ME I DIDN'T SEE AT THE TIME.

AND I ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HAD YOU HOW THE SCHOOL THE CENTERED AIMS TO SEE THE FLAME IN EACH GIRL, THE POTENTIAL IN EACH GIRL.

AND I SAY THAT THEY SAW THAT IN ME.

I DIDN'T NECESSARILY -- IN MIDDLE SCHOOL I DIDN'T SEE MYSELF SAYING I-GRADUATING FROM HOLY CROSS.

OR EVEN COLLEGE WASN'T A THING NECESSARILY.

THEY'D TELL US YOU'RE GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE AND DO AMAZING THINGS.

I'M LIKE SURE.

BUT ANY SAW IT.

THEY DID.

AND THEY PUSHED US.

AND THAT MEANS IN HIGH SCHOOL TOO WHEN I COME BACK AND ASK ME HOW IS SCHOOL GOING?

WHERE ARE YOU STRUGGLING.

YOU'RE HAVING A HARD TIME IN PHYSICS LETSD GET YOU A TUTOR.

KAROLYN LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE NOTION OF FOLLOWING THROUGH.

IT'S HARD ENOUGH ON ITS OWN TO TAKE STUDENTS AND GET THEM THROUGH FOURTH GRADE TO EIGHTH GRADE.

TO THEN SAY WE'RE ALSO GOING TO COMMIT TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT FOR THEM NOT JUST THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL AS YOU SAID NOT JUST THROUGH COLLEGE.

BUT ALSO INTO LIVES AFTERWARDS.

AS AN INSTITUTION YOUR SIZE HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

THE REALITY IS THAT WE'RE SMALL BUT MIGHTY.

AND THE REASON WE CAN DO THIS GOOD WORK AND FOLLOW THE GIRLS IS THAT WE'RE SMALL.

AND I THINK -- FOR ME, THE NEXT FIVE AND TEN YEARS REALLY NEED TO BE OTHER PEOPLE NEED TO COME IN AND SEE THIS MODEL BECAUSE IT WORKS.

BUT THE KEY IS SMALL AND PERSONAL.

MARLEA LET ME COME BACK TO YOU.

IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS NOT PART OF THIS SCHOOL, RIGHT, AND THEY SAY TO YOU, YOUR SCHOOL SOUNDS INTERESTING.

IT SOUNDS VERY DIFFERENT.

WHAT'S IT LIKE WHERE YOU GO?

HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION TO THEM.

I HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT TO ME.

YOU HAVE A BETTER SCHOOL THAN I DO.

I'M LIKE YOU A THANKS.

AND THEY'RE LIKE THE THING IS MY SCHOOL IS VERY DIFFERENT.

WE HAVE TEACHERS WHO CARE AND WE HAVE HELP AND GUIDANCE THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE YEAR.

AND I JUST THINK THE FACT THAT I GET TO COME IN EARLY AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING TO GET EXTRA HELP IN MATH AND THE TEACHERS ARE THERE JUST TO HELP ME AND IT'S JUST LIKE AN EXCELLENT THING FOR MY -- FOR MY GRADES.

YOU FIND YOU HAVE ALL THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT YOU WANT TO HAVE IN THIS SCHOOL?

YES.

I FEEL LIKE -- WE HAVE AN AMBIENCE UNCLES.

IT'S LIKE EXTRA GUIDANCE IN WHAT HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE I WANT TO GO TO.

THE CLASS HELPS ME GET TO KNOW MYSELF BETTER AND TELL OTHER SCHOOLS ABOUT MYSELF.

LOOKING BACK WOULD YOU HAVE GRADUATED FROM HOLY CROSS IF YOU HADN'T BEEN AT THIS SCHOOL.

ABSOLUTELY NOT I HADN'T HEARD OF COLLEGE OF HOLY CROSS UNTIL I WENT TO CCC.

IN SEVENTH GRADE THEY TOOK US ON A COLLEGE TRIP AND I REMEMBER SAYING IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL I'M GOING TO DO SCHOOL THERE.

MY MOM WAS LIKE THAT'S SO SWEET.

BUT I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS APPLYING TO COLLEGES, I SAID THAT COLLEGE STOOD OUT TO ME AND I WANT TO GO THERE.

I WANT TO LIVE THAT MISSION.

AND I DO NOT THINK THAT I WOULD HAVE GONE THERE IF IT WEREN'T FOR CCC.

WELL, I TELL YOU AGAIN HAVE BEEN VISITED FOR A LITTLE BIT OF TIME I SAW THE JOE, THE EXPECTATIONS, I SAW THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS CERTAINLY SEE IT IN ALL OF YOU.

YOU SHOULD BE CONGRATULATED AND STAFF AND EVERYBODY WHO WORKS THERE AND WE'LL SEE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU ARE JUST AS WE'RE SEEING WONDERFUL THINGS FROM HER.

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU AND GOOD LUCK TO YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPEND BEING TIME WITH YOU.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CAN HELP THE CENTER GO TO OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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