DACA - New York City Blog

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1. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Wednesday 21st October

We all got up early and headed to Manchester Airport. Ten students took a minibus from the Academy (kindly driven by Mr Cane) while the others arranged their own transport. After battling through Manchester’s notorious rush hour traffic everyone managed to arrive at Terminal 2 by 9am and we went through the checking in and extensive security measures. By about 10.15am we were in the departure lounge and the students were given some time to get breakfast and do any last minute shopping. We collected by the departure gate and after a short wait started to board the plane.

The seven hour flight across the Atlantic went very smoothly. The cabin crew kept us well fed and watered and the touch screens built into the headrests provided everyone with a wide selection of films, games and much else to keep them occupied. If all else failed people even talked to each other!

After landing at 2.30pm local time (5 hours behind the UK) we had a long wait as the group went through the rigorous immigration service checks. Once we had collected our luggage we had another short wait while our private transfer to the hotel arrived. At this point it really began to hit everyone that we were in the USA.

The 40 minute journey from JFK to central Manhattan provided many photo opportunities, especially as we approached Manhattan with its many iconic buildings and bridges. As soon as we drove onto Manhattan through the Queens Tunnel everyone was taken aback by the volume of traffic and people. The soundtrack was classic New York too – a constant sound of honking horns, traffic police whistles and police car sirens.

After sorting out rooms and luggage everyone had an hour to unpack and get ready for going out – the evening weather was dry & warm. At 6.30pm we headed out onto 34 Street, and after a brief and humourous encounter on the sidewalk outside the hotel with a classic rude New Yorker we made the short walk to the Empire State Building. By the time we had got to the 86th floor observation deck night had fallen and the views of the city at night were genuinely spectacular. You can tell when Sixth Formers are impressed as they stop talking! A clear night ensured unimpeded views across all 5 boroughs that make up NYC. We could also pick out many classic NY sights – Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, Washington Square monument, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and many more. All too soon it was time to leave and after a stop at a local McDonald’s (students’ choice) for tea we headed back to hotel.

Everyone was starting to feel the pace by 9am local time as their body clock was telling them it was 2am in the UK.

More soon ………………

Thu, October 22, 2009 @ 12:56 PM

2. wendy stein wrote:
thanks very much for your good help and good cheer today at the Yorkville Common Pantry. You were wonderful hard workers and we were impressed that you had come from so far away.

Thu, October 22, 2009 @ 10:32 PM

3. Russell Berresford wrote:
Iwish to thank Mr Mcwillam for informing us that all the students and teachers had arrived safely.

Fri, October 23, 2009 @ 7:27 AM

4. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Thursday 22nd October

The day started with an early breakfast. Everyone assembled in the lobby for 7.30am and made their way to the Tick Tock Diner on 8th Ave. The traditional ‘Diner’ used to be a staple of New York life much as we used to have the ‘local café’. Always good value Diners were famous for quick, large portions of food in clean surroundings. However, the constant rise of the now ubiquitous McDonald’s, Burger King and many other fast food chains combined with the decline of the ‘blue collar’ workers who used to be the core customers has led to many Diners having to close, so we are really lucky having this piece of traditional New York life almost on our door step.

I did warn people that the portions would be generous but it was only when the plates of food arrived that people believed me. Everyone ate heartily – pancakes with syrup, bacon and eggs, omelettes, bagels and unlimited coffee. The waiters were real characters and took pride in ‘adopting’ the different tables of students while they were in there.

At 8.30 we headed off into the subway system to make our way up to the Yorkville Common Pantry on East 109th St. The NY subway system is fairly intuitive to use and although we had to change lines twice during rush hour it still only took us about 30 minutes to get the station we needed.

The contrasts when we emerged on the southern end of Harlem could not have been more striking. Just a few minutes before we had been walking next to buildings with some of the most expensive rents in the world. However, with its smashed windows, graffiti and homeless people asleep on benches or wandering shrouded in old blankets South Harlem was a world away from the image of glamorous New York as portrayed in countless films.

Making our way to 109th St we quickly found the Yorkville Common Pantry’s building. The YCP is a social enterprise and New York City’s largest community-based food pantry. It was set up by local churches and is designed to meet the needs of local families by providing culturally-appropriate and nutritiously-balanced food. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, YCP distributes grocery packages to families. YCP’s Project Dignity is designed to meet other needs of homeless and hungry individuals in the local community and consists of a range of services designed to meet the most basic needs of YCP’s clients - food, shelter, hygiene, medical services - as well as the larger, more challenging issues they face - long-term housing, health care, benefits and employment. The overall goal of the programme is to serve as a bridge back to health, well-being and self-sufficiency for the homeless and hungry.
At this point though we hit a snag. Due to an internal reorganisation the YCP could not accommodate all the students. After a quick bit of negotiation some students reluctantly volunteered to go and do something else while the ones who would be staying were given their health & safety briefing and set to work. The students were involved in a wide range of jobs: some made up food parcels for distribution to homeless people later that day, others helped to unload the donations of food from Manhattan’s hotels, supermarkets, churches and schools and some were involved in the administration office helping to make sure that the people coming to the YCP got all the correct help they needed. The students did superbly and the centre manager heaped praise on them for their efforts. Of particular note are Elliot Mason and Nathan Jepson who spent the entire time unloading the delivery lorries and carrying the heavy parcels of food around.

It is fair to say that the students had a first hand lesson in social justice (or should that be injustice?), and saw the UK with it’s NHS, organised mental health services and social security network in a much better light that perhaps they did before they left the UK.

The students who were not able to help at the YCP walked down 5th Avenue towards the Guggenheim Museum with the intention of looking at its world renowned collection of art. The Guggenheim is an instantly recognisable building as it’s the one which Will Smith chases the man/alien into at the start of MIB. Before we got there we had to run a gauntlet of dozens of police who were guarding President Obama while he was jogging in Central Park. However, when we got to the Guggenheim we found out that it was closed on Thursdays – something our guidebook omitted to tell us. To help them cope with their sorrow the students bought themselves Snowcones – although one person squeezed his too hard and it shot out of its wrapper onto the floor. Undaunted we continued on and within half a mile we found the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and it was open! The Met has a massive collection of Art ranging from Greek and Egyptian treasures right up to collections of Modern Art and Twentieth Century design.

Talk about being spoilt for choice! With originals of the work by every major US artist since the country was founded as well as the big European artists like Picasso and Dali everyone was easily able to find something to enjoy. The Museum is also the current home of Damien Hurst’s Shark In Formaldehyde which pretty much does what it says on the tin and is a Great White Shark preserved and suspended in a tank of formaldehyde.

After a quick walk through Central Park and a hotdog for lunch these students then went to the Museum of Natural History. Instantly recognisable thanks to the success of Night At The Museum the students found it really interesting and had their photo next to the T-Rex skeleton and Easter Island Head – both of which featured in the film.

Everyone met up back at the hotel at 4.30pm and after a bit of rest the party broke up into smaller groups each lead by a teacher and went off for some retail therapy. The girls enjoyed their visit to Macy’s while the boys hit the trainer shops and bought styles not available in the UK.

For tea we boarded the subway and headed to the Lower East Side for the Little Italy and Chinatown areas. Students were given a choice of what to eat and the ones choosing Italian headed off with Mrs Beaumont while those opting for Chinese went with Mr McWilliam. After a few wrong turns both groups found authentic local restaurants. Both groups ate well and then made their own way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we are going to two schools, both of which are in the Bronx.

More soon …………

Fri, October 23, 2009 @ 10:59 AM

5. Mr Chester wrote:
you all sound like you're having fun
bring us all back a present!

Fri, October 23, 2009 @ 11:46 AM

6. Russell Berresford wrote:

Fri, October 23, 2009 @ 10:25 PM

7. Russell Berresford wrote:
spoke to lauren last night she said she is having a brilliant time and she cant believe she is actually in new york. this blog is a good idea to keep uptodate , enjoy. debbie berresford

Sat, October 24, 2009 @ 1:20 PM

8. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Friday 23rd October
The day started with a breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner and after another very filling meal we headed back to the hotel to wait for the coach to take us to the Harriett Trubman Charter School in the Bronx.

Once we fought our way out of the central Manhattan traffic and we headed uptown towards the Bronx the level of visible social deprivation massively increased.

The Harriet Trubman Charter School is a school for children aged 4 – 13. It is part of the American Charter School programme, which in turn is very similar to the Academy programme in the UK. Before leaving the coach the students were given a thorough briefing on what to expect and how we expected them to behave around the American students.

Cleveland Person, the Principal, extended us a very warm welcome and our students were immediately set to work for the next two hours as classroom assistants while the staff were invited to go where they wanted and visit whichever classes they chose.

The DACA students were involved in every type of activity – gym, maths, literacy, music, science etc – which every age of child in the school. The American students were very excited about the visit of their UK ‘friends’, and we were made to feel extremely welcome by everyone we met – whether they were the youngest student or member of staff.

The guiding principles of ‘discipline’ and ‘respect for others’ were evident in all that the American students did, and we saw some outstanding learning and teaching taking place. All of the students were very focused on their work and clearly understood that this was their chance to make it out of the Bronx and aspire to university and a life of happiness, enjoyment and economic well-being.

Methods to raise aspiration and reinforce progression were everywhere. For instance, each teacher displayed the pennant of the university they attended in their classroom and on their classroom door. Also classes weren’t given the traditional names like Class 1, Class 2 etc, instead they were called Harvard, Brown, Yale etc after the most prestigious American universities. Every senior student I spoke to was also able to tell me which universities they would like to go to and which subject(s) they would like to study when they got there. All highly inspirational!

To begin with it was a little disconcerting to see that what is in effect a primary school required a 5 person security team but we quickly saw that the problems were not going to be coming from within. Problems, if they arise, come from outside the school such as people being on the site who shouldn’t be, angry parents etc

Regardless of age the US students were confident speakers and had an impressive vocabulary for their ages. Typically the vocabulary of the average HTCS student is about 2 years ahead of their counterparts elsewhere. Mr McWilliam was very impressed by the fact that 12 years olds were learning GCSE standard business and economics concepts, and he was also invited to give an impromptu lesson on economic principles using a £5 note. However, he was stumped when the students asked him why the Pound is called the Pound.

All too soon it was time to leave. After a brief lunch of pizza, vegetables and milk in the school’s canteen the older HTCS students were invited by the Principal to swap email/facebook addresses with the DACA students, and we said our goodbyes.

A brief journey deeper into the Bronx then followed as we made our way to the second school on our itinerary. When we arrived at the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Project) the differences with the HTCS were immediately noticeable. The school and classrooms were older and more cramped than at the HTCS. Moreover, the discipline was almost of military standards. Students moved along corridors in single file, they were not allowed to talk without permission from their teacher and they had to walk on a line running down the centre of the corridors. On first impressions it also felt like the KIPP students were not having as much fun in their activities as at the HTCS.

We were given an inspirational talk on the history and philosophy of KIPP schools by one of the KIPP’s senior staff and some of our students asked questions. As we had slipped off schedule earlier in the day we didn’t have quite a much time at the KIPP as we would have liked and after only 45 minutes it was time to get the coach back to the hotel. Very interesting discussions took place on the coach coming back. It was evident in the comments of our students that they realised how fortunate they were.

Both schools are much more successful than their local community schools and both have a different approach to achieving success. However, there are also a significant number of similarities between each type of school:
• Both are inclusive and serve students of all needs, except those with the most severe physical and/or mental disabilities
• Although parents have to apply for their children to join the two schools do not select on the basis of academic ability or parental background etc. Entrance is for those students (and parents) who are prepared to agree to support the schools’ charters.
• Both serve their local communities as all students at both schools are drawn from a radius of a few miles.
• Both are oversubscribed , and are hugely popular with parents
• Discipline and respect for one’s self and others lies at the heart of all that both schools do
• Each has an overt ‘100%’ ethos – students and staff are expected to give 100% of their effort to all that they undertake
• Both constantly focus students’ attention on progression and what each student needs to be doing now so that they will eventually be able to go to university

At the hotel we had some time to freshen up before heading out for the evening. After a short walk up to 53rd Street on 5th Avenue we spent some time in the Museum of Modern Art before heading to the Rockefeller Centre to get some food and watch people on the outdoor ice rink.

On Saturday we will be exploring the Lower Manhattan area.

Sun, October 25, 2009 @ 7:03 PM

9. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Saturday 24th October

As we have had several hectic days we designed Saturday to move at a more leisurely pace. The students had a bit of a lie-in and we breakfasted at a local Deli at 9am. We were due to move off at 10.30am but one student felt unwell. After we had ensured the student was being appropriately cared for by Miss Quick the other staff and students headed towards the southern tip of Manhattan Island on subway Line 1.
Thankfully she was feeling much better on our return from the days activities.

Our first stop was the Statten Island Ferry terminal so that we could take advantage of the free round trip journey that gives you some of the best views in the world. Not only do you get to view the iconic cityscape of Manhattan seen on any number of posters but we also travelled within a few hundred metres of the Statue of Liberty.

On our return to the Manhattan terminal we headed up Broadway and after a few hundred metres had a short stop for photos alongside the impressive bronze cast of the Wall St ‘Charging Bull’ which was designed to symbolise the strength, hope and power of the American people for the future. Afterwards, we turned into Wall St itself – so called because it was originally the site of a wall which was used to keep enemies and warring indigenous Indians out of the city in the 17th Century. We passed the Trinity Church at the head of the street used in the film National Treasure, and the resting place of many of the famous early New Yorkers. We then made our way past the New York Stock Exchange with its Post 9/11 security fencing looking very out of place next to the handsome 17th Century stone structure. A 100m further on we stopped for photos outside the statue of George Washington at Federal Hall. The bronze statue on the steps marks the place where George Washington took the oath to become America’s first president. At this time New York was still the nation’s capital city.

We then made the 10 minute walk to the South Street Seaport centre where students were given an hour to explore this historic area, do some shopping and get some lunch. Just as we met up again we were treated to a New York rain shower – mild rain, lots of it and it just keeps coming! The vast majority of the students took the conditions in the right spirit and enjoyed the subsequent walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which, when they turned to face Manhattan, gave them some outstanding views of both the uptown and downtown sections of Manhattan.

After the Brooklyn Bridge we made our way to Ground Zero and although the site was obscured by screens while work on the new building takes place just being in place where so many people died horribly 8 years ago proved to be a very emotional experience.

In the evening the students decided that they wanted a ‘quiet night’ and after getting takeaways retired to their bedrooms for the remainder of the evening.

Tomorrow we hope to get tickets for the Liberty Island / Ellis Island tour and have some time to explore Greenwich Village.

Tue, October 27, 2009 @ 12:40 PM

10. jenny hurst wrote:
sound like your having a good time !!

Tue, October 27, 2009 @ 2:54 PM

11. debbie berresford wrote:
i would like to thank all the staff for taking time out for this trip which lauren really enjoyed.thankyou also for blog up dates which i enjoyed reading thankyou once again

Wed, October 28, 2009 @ 8:18 PM

12. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Sunday 25th October

After another late get up and breakfast we made our way down to Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan Island to get a ferry that would take us to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

Battery Park is named for the cannons that once protected the harbour, and it is also the location of Castle Clinton built in the early 1800s as an additional artillery defence post. Originally Castle Clinton was approx 100m off shore and connected to the mainland by a causeway. However, landfill gradually linked it to Manhattan, and until 1855 it was the city’s immigration point.

Liberty Island is the home of the Statue of Liberty. At 93m in height the statue dominates the New York harbour, but the furthest up the students could go was to the observation deck about one-third of the way up; the stairway to the crown has been closed since the 9/11 terrorist attack. However, this still allowed students to get plenty of decent photos of them ‘holding up’ the New York skyscrapers.

A quick ferry trip then took us to the neighbouring Ellis Island. Half of America’s population can trace its roots to Ellis Island which served as the country’s immigration depot from 1892 until 1954. Nearly 12 million people passed through its gates and dispersed across the country in one of the largest waves of migration the world has ever seen. The information hall was extremely busy with Americans taking advantage of the opportunity to trace their relatives.

Once we were back on Manhattan we made our way to Greenwich Village. This is the most European area of NYC (and my favourite part of town!) It does not share the strictly mathematical street layout of the rest of the island. This reflects its origins as a country village and the streets follow early farm boundaries and streams. Nowadays, it is a very bohemian area which is home to New York University, artists and writers. Many ‘Greats’ of American culture have lived in the area in the past including the artist Edward Hopper and the poet ee cummings. If you have ever seen the films “Carlito’s Way” or “When Harry Met Sally” then you will have a good idea of what the Village looks like. The students were given two hours to explore the Village’s coffeehouses, cafes, quirky architecture and independent clothing shops.

Once we met up again we made our way back to the hotel using the subway, and after a bit of down-time we made the short walk from the hotel up 7th Avenue to Times Square on 42nd Street. The glowing neon of theatre billboards has combined with other flashy advertising and yet more shopping opportunities to create an area which is very busy from early in the morning until into the small hours.

Tomorrow we will be visiting the Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, approx 20 miles to the north of Central Manhattan.

Tue, November 3, 2009 @ 9:47 AM

13. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Monday 26th October

Today we visited the Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, about 15 miles north of our base in Manhattan. To get there we took a coach and headed up 10th Avenue through Harlem, past Columbia University, then over the Hudson and on past the Yankees’ Stadium until we reached the expressway which took us to Yonkers. Any fans of The Sopranos would recognise many of the locations we passed on the way, especially the racecourse on the outskirts of Yonkers.

Yonkers is a town which has had an affluent past then seen itself decline and is now starting to become affluent once again as people who work in Manhattan but cannot afford to rent there seek somewhere relatively close to live.

The Greyston Bakery is a relatively anonymous factory on a fairly run down industrial estate, and the casual observer would not be able to guess at the fantastic work which it supports. The Greyston Bakery is an excellent example of a social enterprise – the sole purpose of the business is to generate profit which is then used to fund badly needed social projects in the Yonkers area such as subsidised high quality housing, free high quality child care and many other ‘social’ services. The company operate a ‘double bottom line’ where social responsibility is considered to be of equal importance to profit. Infact, the bakery’s strapline gives a big clue as to their purpose “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people”. I have to admit that this was the visit I was most looking forward to – not least the prospect of getting some free samples!

Greyston Bakery was founded in 1982 by a Zen Buddhist meditation group led by Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, a former aerospace engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit and a bold vision. The group borrowed $300,000 and opened a small storefront bakery in the Bronx. The original goal — to produce quality, locally made products that would give the group a sustainable, satisfying livelihood — soon inspired a socially responsible business extending opportunity to others.
For years, Greyston Bakery indulged metropolitan New York's most discerning tastes, supplying high quality desserts to many of the city's top-rated restaurants. In 1988, Greyston found a new calling in the inclusion of baked goods in ice cream, and since then has become the exclusive producer of brownies for the renowned Ben & Jerry's brand, among others. In addition to their output of 10 tonnes of ice cream mix-ins per day, Greyston now proudly offers a line of (exceptional – in my humble opinion!) gourmet brownies which have the endorsement of the Whitehouse and Oprah Winfrey.
After a tour and presentation by Ariel Hauptman the bakery’s inspirational Business Development Manager (she has her own hairdressing salon in Manhattan and last year completed her MBA in Social Responsibilty while working full time) we discussed how the brand and business model might transfer to the UK market. This gave the students plenty of food for thought (pun intended!).

Now seriously flagging we returned to Manhattan at about 3pm and students were given the rest of the afternoon off. While some caught up on sleep others chose to search out new retail opportunties and apparently the Ugg Boot shop on 5th Avenue did good business. During the evening we had a group meal at the Hard Rock Café in Time Square. Some students challenged Mr McWilliam to a burger eating contest – you don’t have to ask who won!

Tue, November 3, 2009 @ 9:48 AM

14. Mr H McWilliam wrote:
Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th October

It was an early start on a very wet morning and we needed to be at the offices of the Jericho Project by 9.00am. We were given a warm welcome by Mary and Robert, no doubt aided by their generous offer of fresh orange juice, strong black coffee and donuts. While we dried out and filled up on caffeine and sugar (just like real New Yorkers!) Mary gave us a short and very interesting presentation on the work of the Jericho Project before escorting us up to Edie’s House in the Bronx using the subway and local railway.

The Jericho Project is another inspirational organisation working hard to help people by giving them a hand up not a hand out. Its mission is to end homelessness at its roots by creating a community that inspires individual change, fosters sustainable independence, and motivates men and women to reach their greatest potential. Jericho’s nationally-recognized programme combines supportive housing, individualised relapse prevention counselling, family reunification support, vocational and educational programming, and ongoing aftercare to an average of 300 formerly homeless individuals each year.
To help with the problems caused by post traumatic stress disorder among former veterans (average age just 25) Jericho is also developing two new supportive housing residences for homeless and low-income veterans in the Bronx — the first new housing programs for veterans in New York City in 15 years. The residences will be state-of-the-art, “green” buildings that will feature small studio apartments, staff offices, community rooms, computer labs, and gardens and will enable Jericho to provide an additional 130 units of supportive housing by 2011.

We were made to feel very welcome by the director of Edie’s House and the residents we met, and the students were surprised at the small size of the units residents live in. However, this was quickly put into perspective by the director who said that it was much more preferable to sleeping in a car or shop doorway. Talk about making you think, and realising how lucky we are by comparison!

After returning to the hotel students did their last bits of packing and souvenir shopping. We set off for the airport at 6pm and the flight left at 10pm. Although most people got some sleep we all arrived in Manchester at 9am local time red eyed and very tired. We had just got over the jet lag of going and now had to go through the whole process again.

Would we do the trip again? Without doubt yes - in a New York minute!

Many thanks to Mrs Beaumont, Miss Quick, Mrs Ritchie and Mr Lawson for their help.

Tue, November 3, 2009 @ 9:50 AM

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