This feature is part of the National Alliance's 2021 Back to School Month campaign.
All Kids Can—this statement is a core belief held by every member of the team at DREAM Mott Haven Middle School in New York, where students are encouraged to dream big and are equipped with the tools to reach their full potential. This will be DREAM's fifth school and the second location in the Bronx.
Jennifer Khan has been a part of the DREAM family for 13 years and is serving as the school’s principal. We sat down with her to talk about her excitement about the new school's opening:
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role as principal?
In my new role as principal, I am looking forward to continuing to build our DREAM family. I am so excited to be a part of the team that gets to bring our Grow the Whole Child Model to a new set of students and families in Mott Haven. DREAM has so many amazing things to offer, from youth-led academics, social-emotional learning, youth choice, and our work with families.
I feel honored to be able to build a team that is passionate and equally excited to offer this and more to the Mott Haven community.
What makes DREAM Mott Haven Middle School unique?
The opening of our school this fall is a continuation of what DREAM has been working toward for 30 years: leveling the field by empowering all children to recognize their potential and realize their dreams. Our schools serve a population that is largely comprised of children who identify as Hispanic and/or Black, where 89% qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, and 27% identify with special needs.
Traditionally, children in DREAM's communities have not been given the agency or resources to dictate their futures. Through our schools, our community programs, our post-secondary support,, and our commitment to our Grow the Whole Child Model, DREAM is creating lifelong learners who are equipped to fulfill their vision of success in and out of the classroom.
Please describe the “Grow the Whole Child Model.”
Our Grow the Whole Child education model is all about the promises we make to our families—the things we’ll never compromise on. Rigorous academics, social-emotional learning, athletics, health, and wellness, and family and community engagement are all equal, crucial parts of every day at DREAM. We see each pillar as interconnected and, combined together, they form our 360-degree approach to not only learning, but the development of our students into individuals who live full lives and have agency over their future.
What will the first day of school look like?
DREAM is planning for a 100% in-person reopening this fall, continuing to utilize the health and safety practices that allowed DREAM to remain open during the 2020-21 academic year.
On the first day of school, we want to learn about our youth and families and begin building our school community. We will be spending a great deal of the day developing rituals and routines to strengthen our school pride, ensure that everyone is safe, and set our students, teachers, and families up for success.
What are your plans to incorporate student voice into your school?
Student voice is very important for our school. We want our students to be active participants in their learning. Students will have multiple opportunities to share their insights and tell us about what is working best for them. This can happen in their classrooms with teachers, in advisory sessions with advisors, in their extracurriculars and afterschool programs, or even in a conversation with school leadership.
We want to make sure we are offering activities that are engaging and spark the interests of our students, and the best way to do that is to ask the students directly.
Learn more about DREAM Mott Haven Middle School.
Brittnee Exum is the manager of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.