Keep Joan and Good Shepherd Services at UHHS!
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Good Shepherd Services (GSS) is a national non-profit organization that aims to enhance the lives of youth, their families, and communities by offering them a variety of services. In New York City there are over 80 programs that offer support to underserved areas. Our school, University Heights High School (UHHS) in the Bronx, New York has partnered with GSS for many years. However, reduction in funding at GSS threaten our students, and the work that Joan Fox, the Program Director has dedicated her life to. The budget cuts will undermine the 14 years of youth development and enrichment Joan has helped to foster at UHHS to support students’ social and emotional needs. For example, she has facilitated meetings with the NYPD’s 40th Precinct and our students to bridge community building and trust. In addition to collaborating with the NYPD, she has created a safe space for all students and supported marginalized groups including the LGBTQ population. She also provides academic and social support through individual and group counseling. She has fostered leadership within our students, she has served as an advisor to many of them, and she runs programs to instill a social justice and charitable mindset. Through her tutelage students become socially aware of things that impact their lives.
At UHHS the graduation rate is high because of the level of support Joan provides. One in-school support program, Aiming High, uses peer to peer mentoring and adult to student mentoring. Aiming High links high school students at UHHS to middle school students. After participating in this program, 100% of UHHS students reported feeling more connected to our school, higher levels of academic confidence, and 90% felt a responsibility to those around them. Also, 100% of UHHS students who participated in this program stated they had confidence to lead others after Aiming High. In addition, the school acquired grants which were used to develop a gardening and recycling program with the assistance of Joan and she helps manages. With her loss and no time given for transition, the sustainability of these programs and grants become jeopardized.
Teaching life skills is part of how Joan helps our students. By engaging many of them in service learning, apprenticeships, and internships students learn how to take ownership of their work while honing their leadership skills. Many students have learned how to garden and grow sustainable food to educate and create a farm to table mindset for the community. Such an abrupt change by GSS to pull Joan out of our school without adequate time to transition will create chaos for our students. If Joan leaves our school there will be no one else to organize the myriad of programs she oversees to promote the holistic needs of our students.
She is beloved by students, families, and staff at UHHS. It is because of her disposition that we have thrived as a community. Joan knows what it is like to live a life of consequence, and she empowers and motivates youth and adults to be their best. As a result, UHHS is her home and students still need all of the programs she has helped to facilitate and grow. We hope to collect signatures to prove to Good Shepherd and the governing bodies of our South Bronx community that the program and Joan should remain in this community. The work she does cannot be replicated by other programs. Feel free to add anecdotes with your signature on how Joan has impacted you and why Joan needs to stay at UHHS.
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