STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — High school students in foster care from schools across New York City were given the opportunity to live and study at the College of Staten Island this summer.
Through a new program, First Star Academy at the College of Staten Island, students lived on the Willowbrook campus in July. They learned life skills and participated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.
CSI’s First Star Academy is part of the non-profit organization First Star, and is supported by AT&T, the New York City Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) and New Yorkers for Children.
“The First Star Academy at the College of Staten Island is one of ACS’s critical initiatives to improve education and employment outcomes for youth in foster care,” said ACS Commissioner David Hansell. “This collaboration will expose our youth to career interests in science, technology, engineering and math, giving them an edge to compete in the digital economy right here in New York’s Silicon Alley.”
First Star partners with universities and child welfare agencies throughout the country to create academies for foster youth. These academies offer long-term programming for high school foster youth that include both four immersive residential summers on a university campus, and monthly sessions during each school year.
LEARNING LIFE SKILLS
First Star students took classes at CSI, received tutoring to address any remedial academic needs, and learned essential life skills to help them succeed in college and life.
Joy Brown, 15, who will be a junior at a Bronx high school this fall, said the program helped her realize her future career goals.
“It’s a good program because you’re around these different personalities and that’s how the real world works,” she said. “So you’re preparing yourself not only in education, but how to interact with other people.”
Jessica Gonzalez, 16, who will be a junior at a Brooklyn high school, said the program has helped her both educationally and spiritually.
“I feel like we also have that part of us that we don’t speak about, meaning our emotions,” Gonzalez said. “In life skills, we do speak about it and sometimes we even speak about it to each other or to the staff.”
Both Gonzalez and Brown said they plan on going to medical school to become doctors.
On Thursday, students will demo their STEM projects from their summer workshop during a closing ceremony.
The summer program at the Willowbrook campus first began last year. Students return to the program each summer until they begin college or start their careers.
AT&T supported the STEM-specific curriculum for the program, including coding instruction, digital storytelling and video game design.
“AT&T is committed to creating additional opportunities to help open students’ eyes to the possibilities around them,” said Marissa Shorenstein, president of the Northeast region for AT&T. “We hope that the practical skills these students learn this summer and over the course of the program will set them up for success in college, in their chosen careers and beyond.”
Students also participated in a Geographic Information System (GIS) program taught by CSI’s Urban Policy Analyst and GIS specialist, Nora Santiago. Students learned the GIS production process, including data-modeling, acquisition, editing, analysis and cartographic output.
GEARING UP FOR SUCCESS
“The First Star Academy provides students in foster care with the education and resources to help them overcome the many obstacles that they face, with the goal of obtaining college degrees and success in their careers,” said CSI President William Fritz.
First Star was founded as a national charity dedicated to improving life for child victims of abuse and neglect. Since 2011, First Star has pioneered support programs to launch foster children into productive lives and careers through higher education.