Go Trailblazers!

It was a great season to be a member of Inwood Academy’s Trailblazers.

The new school year brought about exciting changes to our programming along with bringing together many familiar faces while welcoming new ones. As we completed the first season our third year of athletic programming at IAL, we couldn’t be more pleased with the accomplishments of our scholar athletes and coaches.

Our Middle School (JHS) flag football, volleyball, and track teams returned this season, and we added a few new teams to the Trailblazers roster, JHS wrestling, girls High School (JV) basketball, and boys JV basketball. Combined, these teams are represented by eighty-one student athletes who all actively participate in team training and games and thirteen phenomenal coaches, four of which are our treasured volunteers.

The new Middle School building’s gym is the Trailblazers new gem. It’s allowed us to increase our practices times and our level of play. Our JHS volleyball team went undefeated in the regular season winning the Manhattan Regular Season Championship and came in second place in the Tournament Championship. Our first year JHS wrestling team produced an All-City Champion in the 210 pound weight class and is working hard to add more championships in the winter season. Both the girls and boys JV basketball teams had winning seasons, too.

As the Athletic Director, one of my proudest moments of this past fall was seeing how supportive the parents were in their child’s interest in sports. They happily came to our first athletics parent meeting, met with their child’s coaches, and made commitments to help their teams out by volunteering their time. I was also very proud to see the student athletes on our JHS and JV teams volunteering their time during IAL’s Season of Service, including their help with running a food drive in November, which distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food to families in Northern Manhattan. And the field trip the JV girls basketball team took early in the season, attending the Our Future, Our Rights – Youth Rising #UpForSchool rally, which was a United Nations event held at New York University. Our girls joined 300 other young activists demanding that world leaders keep to their promise that all children would be in school by the end of 2015.

My goal as Athletic Director isn’t simply to produce championships for our school, it’s to produce mature young people who can serve and lead others well.

By Kenneth Tejeda, kenneth.tejeda@inwoodacademy.org

Ending 2014 Strong, and Starting 2015 Right

During Inwood Academy for Leadership’s first two months of Season of Service, students, families, and staff helped many of its neighbors most in need. This new IAL program also helps us reinforce a simple message to our students: that we all can be leaders by making a difference.

In November, we partnered with over twenty organizations to launch #UptownGoGreen to feed thousands of Go Green Volunteer 1families in northern Manhattan. Our middle school served as the distribution hub for over 10,000 pounds of food, 500 pounds of which were collected at our two buildings. Forty IAL students, parents, and staff joined dozens of other volunteers to prepare bags that were distributed at eight locations.

In December we held a holiday toy drive. Phase one saw over 130 new and gently used toys collected and distributed to homeless children and families during the Love Kitchen Holiday Banquet. We have another 100+ toys collected Toy Drivefor phase two: a Three Kings Toy Distribution for gravely sick children at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Another event was a comic book fundraiser held by
our IAL Middle School Students, who raised money for the purchase of warm accessories and toiletries, which were distributed to HIV patients at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

With every school-wide season of service event we are setting the example that our service is the best holiday gift we can share.  Season of Service will continue until Saturday, January 18, after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

Thank you to all who have contributed to the Season of Service. To get involved, please contact angelo.ortiz@inwoodacademy.org.

Click here to see pictures of one of the distribution sites.

Fractions, Decimals, Volume and More

Inwood Academy admissions lottery gives preference to students who do not speak English as their first language and, as you can imagine, they need extra help with grasping mathematical concepts presented to them. They are highly motivated students so with the right tools and resources they have every chance to succeed.

With the use of tablets, my fifth grade students can access online resources, such as Khan Academy, ST Math, Ready Math and several others, that can help provide quick, on the spot intervention. All we need are 6 Samsung Galaxy tablets and we will have enough to provide my students with online instruction in the topics they find most confusing. They will be able to better learn concepts such as equivalent fractions, decimal operations, volume, and more.

The use of technology in my classroom will help my students become more engaged and develop a love for math.

Please support my project on DonorsChoose. If you can help me get this project funded before September 9th, our students will be able to use these tools after we complete all initial assessments.  The good news is that we’re past the mid-way point.  If you’ll support this cause, I’ll help answer your most challenging math dilemma. 🙂

By Jose Grullon, jose.grullon@inwoodacademy.org


Oh How the Years Go By!

One of our founding teachers recently came upon a class picture of our now 8th grade students when they were in 5th grade – our first class of Inwood Academy. These kids are like our babies, our first born, our princes and princesses! The first thing I saw was the obvious differences in appearance. The different heights, hairstyles and the changes in their beautiful faces were tear-inducing, but as I continued to look at it I had a few more thoughts…

They’re still here.

Out of the 29 students pictured, 27 are still enrolled at Inwood. Out of those 27, 25 are staying for 9th grade, representing our first high school class this fall. Both of the two staff members pictured are still working at Inwood and both are planning to return next year. Our students and staff tell us they love to be here because we support and celebrate their growth and development. Through collaboration and hard work they too have contributed to making this an  environment where people want to stay.

Creating a culture doesn’t happen with a cookie cutter.Students in the Hallway 2010

The faces of the students take me back to the time when we first entered the hallway of the building we refer to simply as “Nagle.” We are now housed in two buildings (“Nagle” and “Cooper”). Seeing this picture reminds me of simpler times. We were in one building with 110 students, eight teachers, an office manager, a finance manager, an operations director and a principal – me. Now with 97 staff members and 445 students, that picture seems almost magical. Magic or not, that first year at Nagle was hard but rewarding, and it set the tone for the culture we have created together. That year formed the foundation of who we are; we built on the strengths found within our staff and students and created a culture around it. Although we now have two buildings, and in some ways two cultures, what makes Inwood “us” is evident throughout the entire organization.

We value all of the voices of  our community. Regardless of how a decision is made – from the top down or from the grass roots – those voices are major factors. Staff, students and parents have invested hours and hours of time to help form our high school opening in the fall, from choosing a high school uniform (yes, there will be one) to whether or not we make early college credits available.

We value a student’s character, but not the kind you read about in books. It’s the kind of character that means when we all mess up and we all fall down, we all can get back on our feet again with the love and support of a caring environment. It’s the kind of character that means teachers can spend class time having challenging and productive conversations with students about the realities of the world around them and the kinds of issues that they encounter. It’s the kind of character that means students cheer for their classmates at the spring concert – even those playing a piano solo – by chanting each student’s name. It’s also the kind of character that means students can get up and play a piano solo in front of a crowded audience at the age of ten.

We value students’ developmental stages; our hallways are not silent and that’s ok. This took time. As a NYC charter, the bar set is silence – silence in the hallways, silence in the classroom and sometimes even silence in the lunchroom. In some ways, we thought this is what we had to do, but we tried it on for size and realized it didn’t fit. Expectations and boundaries? Of course! Students thrive when they know what their boundaries and expectations are, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. But as educators and community members with youth development backgrounds, we realized that silence didn’t work for us because it didn’t work for our students.

They have grown. ND4_4769

When students arrive at Inwood Academy in 5th grade, an average of 75% are not reading on grade level. Many are reading two or three grade levels behind. In the beginning of this academic school year only 54 out of 217 5th and 6th graders were reading on grade level. Our latest measures indicate that 125 out of the 217 are now reading on grade level. In many ways our 5th and 6th grade years are considered to be an academic boot camp for students. They often have play catch up – to master the fundamentals while accessing the deeper critical thinking required by the Common Core. This task is not easy, but our teachers have created environments where individualized goals for each student create avenues for progress. Our students begin learning the minute they walk in the door and continue to learn throughout their time with us.

As we continue to grow as a school and as our students continue to grow as individuals, I am excited about the foundation we have set. Our high school will open this fall with 100 of these eager students ready to conquer. Go Inwood!

By Executive Director Christina Reyes, christina.reyes@inwoodacademy.org, @inwoodacademy