After-school at Inwood Academy

This article was originally written by and published on DOE Charter Schools Weekly.

Inwood Academy for Leadership Charter School is a middle school and high school located in Inwood, Manhattan. Since opening, Inwood Academy for Leadership has continued to offer students a wide range of after-school programming. Inwood Academy for Leadership views after-school enrichment as an opportunity for experiential learning, character building and overall academic improvement. More than 250 students are currently registered for after school programming, and over the years, Inwood Academy has offered an impressive list of classes including Photography, Drum Corps, Choir, Theater, Wrestling, Girls Who Code and Debate. Thanks to community partners such as Play Study Win, Inwood Academy for Leadership can offer a breadth of recreational activities.


On December 2nd, Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school debate team hosted the New York City Urban Debate League. The New York City Urban Debate League is the largest debate league in the nation, comprised of students from all five boroughs. Over 250 debaters were present for the competition. Leading up the to event, Inwood Academy for Leadership students prepared for the debate by meeting twice a week during after school programming. Students prepared arguments for both positions of a given debate question. For example, students came prepared to debate, “Should juveniles be charged as adults in the criminal justice system?”

Middle School Director of Afterschool, Denise Hykes, proudly watched the Inwood Academy for Leadership after-school debate team battle it out with evidence. When asked about her favorite part of coordinating Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school programming, Hykes shared, “I love it when the kids are empowered to organize and lead, whether it’s MCing an awards ceremony, taking leftover snacks to the nearby NYC Love Kitchen or watching the older students teach the younger students.”


In Solidarity

On Monday, October 9th, Inwood Academy for Leadership held an IAL Stands with Dreamers event. This was our third Family Day of Service and this year we chose to show our support of immigrants granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and their families.

Despite the rain, more than 300 of us marched throughout the Inwood community to protest the decision to rescind DACA. Staff, students, and families took to the streets and a contagious euphoria emerged. As we passed by pedestrians they joined us in the chanting and drivers, including an FDNY fire truck, honked to show their support. This made us all feel a closer connection to the wonderful community of Inwood.


We started the day at the middle school where we created posters to take with us on the march and staff took the opportunity to have conversations with families about the importance of DACA. Students on the debate team presented a pro and a con side of the DACA policy, dance classes performed, and one of our high school freshman students sang “Rise Up.” We ended the day back at the school with a performance by our Drum Corps.

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Serving a community with a high population of immigrant families, Inwood Academy wants all our students and their families to feel welcomed and supported. We will continue to provide support to all our families regardless of their status.

As educators, we aspire to have all our students feel safe to pursue a quality education that will prepare them for college, career and a better life for their families.

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The DACA policy, which protects around 800,000 Dreamers, could soon come to an end. The only permanent solution for our immigrant students is the DREAM Act of 2017, a bill introduced in the Senate in July that has bipartisan support. Passing this legislation would give Dreamers the security of permanent resident status and a path to citizenship so they can continue to go to school, work and participate in the country they have called home for most, if not all, of their lives.

Regardless of whether the DREAM Act of 2017 becomes law, we must continue to protect DACA. Protecting all immigrants from deportation is a priority for our immigrant community. Here is something you can do to help protect DACA:

Anything is Possible

We tell our students that anything is possible and we bring mentors, like Arel Moodie, into our school who can reinforce what we teach. We do this to help students build self-confidence. Arel Moodie teaches young people that anything is possible. He spoke to our high school students about how to succeed in college through leadership and effort. Arel grew up on welfare in the projects of Brooklyn, NY where he witnessed those around him being murdered and imprisoned. He is a best-selling author and motivational speaker who built a million dollar company before he turned the age of 30.


Arel Moodie’s message of “effort is everything” in his talk to our students had also, I believe, impacted our staff. It was a reminder that where we are today happened not by chance but rather by the hard work we put in to be successful. As an educator, it is vital that we model what it looks like to work hard and consistently remind students of the importance of effort.

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In my new role as a College and Career Success (CCS) Counselor, I use “effort” and “working hard” more than any other words when talking with students. Our CCS department has to embody and stress effort in order to guarantee that our students are successful beyond our school walls. One day, it is our hope that they, too, will model this behavior and share with others that hard work and effort enabled them to meet their goals and reach their dreams.

7 Tips to Getting Ready for School

Have you ever told yourself, “This year will be different, it will be better?”  I’ve been telling myself this since I became a parent and each year I get a little better at planning for the school day the night before. Here are a few tips my colleagues and I have learned along the way:Lunch

1) Prepare the lunches
. This task is so simple and easy to do, some leave it for the morning. However, who wants to start the morning in a rush?   And if you do it in the evening, your children can help preparing the lunch or do it themselves. Here are some lunch ideas to consider. (Tip provided by Marisa Guerrero, Associate Teacher; my wife and mother of our three wonderful children.)

2) Set out the clothes. Everyone has to get dressed at some point, but it shirt rackwould be easier if you already knew what to wear the night before. This way, you’re not rushing to look for shoes or rain boots, or find the shirt you wanted to wear only to realize that it is dirty or that the pants have a missing button.

For those feeling extra ambitious and who wear a uniform every day, it can be simpler for you by prepping for the entire week. My Mom would iron my uniform clothes for the entire week every Sunday evening. (Tip by Nancy Betances, Office Manager; my mom and mother of two.)

3) Prepare the bookbags. For some reason, this one tends to get overlooked the most. Double-check to ensure that homework is in a folder, pencils and pens are easy to find, books are packed, paper or notebook is handy and that electronics have been charged (phone, laptop, tablet, etc).

If your child is in sports or in extracurricular activity that involves a change of clothes or equipment, ensure that he or she has a separate tote bag with all the necessary supplies. (Tip provided by Nilson Mejia, High School Assistant Dean; father of a newborn.)

4) Bathe. Hygiene is imperative and though it helps some kids to wake up in the morning, there’s no guarantee your child will have time to bathe, especially if you or your child wakes up late. If you have more than one child, bathing in the morning should not be an option. (Tip provided by Amarilys Oviedo, Operations Manager; no children, but the person who would call your house when your child was late J.)

5) Set your alarm clock. If your child is not able to wake him or herself up on their own, it’s up to you to set the tone for the day. Set your alarm clock while you’re doing all the prep work the night before and if your phone is your alarm set it for multiple times, instead of depending on the snooze button. If this isn’t enough consider these other suggestions by a family therapist. (Tip provided by Jocabed Diaz, Office Manager; single, but calls High School families when a student is late or absent.)

6) Get to bed on time. While these tips may be helpful to you, the most important one is to get your child to bed on time. This lessens the difficulty in waking your child and getting him or her to school on time, and increases the likelihood of being in a good mood and getting a healthy breakfast before heading out!

See Good, Sound Sleep for Your Child to learn how sleep impacts your child’s development. (Tip provided by Vanessa Perez, Executive Administrator; parent of a toddler who needs her nap-time.)Speedy Breakfast

7) Plan your breakfast. Knowing what’s for breakfast is half the battle, the other half is ensuring that it’s healthy. Having a simple and healthy breakfast before starting the day is essential. Not only does it affect your child’s mood, it affects their brain. Research shows that a balanced breakfast with the right types of proteins alerts the brain and allows it work better.  That is why at IAL we are quick to take away unhealthy breakfast choices like chips and soda from a child and send them to the cafeteria for a healthier meal.

Check out this article by Dr. Sears on how breakfast affects the brain and 12 Speedy Breakfasts for Busy School Day Mornings for some quick and healthy choices for you and your family. (Tip by Christina Reyes, Executive Director; parent of a toddler who prefers to wear her breakfast.)

How do you get ready for school the night before?  Please share them in the comment section below.

By Christian Guerrero,