There is so much that gets in the way of positive progress that some problems in the world of education can seem insurmountable and overwhelming. That’s why success stories like The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (LSFT) in the neighborhood of Mott Haven in the South Bronx can act as a springboard for those who are looking to change the system from within.
The school opened its doors in 2003, replacing an underperforming and dangerous junior high school in the area. Since then, the school’s dedication to enriching the lives and education of the students in the area has overcome expectations, to say the least. Initially only serving an incoming sixth-grade class, there are now 450 students currently enrolled between grades 6-12 who are engaged by the school’s staff in programs that think outside of the box.
Students at the school are encouraged to immerse themselves within their studies and, on average, study 400 extra hours per year than competing schools. Rather than getting assignments that only require students to grasp the general idea of the subjects they are researching, the school assigns multi-step research papers to help children to dive deeper for a more nuanced understanding. LSFT also understands the value of tech in their students’ futures, and requires them to take five technology classes a week to sharpen their skills in subjects such as coding and robotics. In turn, the school has taken classes on trips to visit campuses of tech leaders like Google, Buzzfeed and many more.
At a speech given by Principal Ramon Gonzalez in the Hague in 2017 on building an expanded educational community in the school’s neighborhood, he laid it out perfectly and passionately on how teachers should view themselves and how giving extra time for students to do their work is the only way they can truly get excited to learn:
“In our school, we don’t call folks ‘champions of change.’ We call folks like you ‘lifeguards.’ Because for us, the premise is that you are there to facilitate. Not to do for kids, but to facilitate. You’re there to constantly watch, like a lifeguard. You’re there to support, not to do.”
The school has widely been successful at doing just that and offers an inclusive and encouraging environment that is also largely bilingual in Spanish and English. The school is also going to great lengths by partnering with Global Glimpse, an organization that helps students to go abroad to study for transformative travel experiences. While in the past each student enrolled in that program would cost $5,000 to fund, LSFT has now brought that cost down to just $500, giving students more of a chance to broaden their horizons at such formative ages.
For more information on The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, head over to mshs223.org.