The Bronxville Promise is about educating the entire student and that includes not just the 3 Rs but skills for leading balanced, healthy, productive lives in a fast-paced world. The Foundation has funded several key wellness programs throughout the District.
In 2016, Middle and High School Principals Tom Wilson and Ann Meyer requested a Foundation grant to become part of Challenge Success. Challenge Success is a program out of Stanford University that grew as a response to an increase in academic and emotional problems among kids in the United States. Utilizing the resources of a prominent advisory board of interdisciplinary experts, the co-founders of Challenge Success created a research-based organization that develops practical curriculum, conferences, and programs for parents, schools, and kids looking for a healthier and more effective path to success in the 21st century. Challenge Success helps schools transform policies and practices to address the need for academic engagement and well-being for their students. They work with schools to implement ideas including homework policies, designing a healthier schedule or revising exam scheduling. Challenge Success uses a process including a needs-assessment that involves an extensive student survey, analysis of the results of the survey with comparison to over 40,000 students at close to 60 high-performing schools, attendance at conferences, coaching sessions for the faculty, parent education and/or faculty development workshops as well as action planning based on the results of the survey.
In 2013, High School teacher Bill Meyer requested a grant to attend training on bringing mindfulness techniques into the classroom. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mr. Meyer incorporated the techniques into his classroom and started a High School meditation club. Members of the club worked with fifth graders to teach them as they embarked on Middle School careers. Middle School Guidance Counselor, Lisa DeSanto, and World Language teacher, Eva Cieloszyk, knew that Middle Schoolers would benefit from these proven techniques and were the next to obtain Foundation resources to attend training to use in Middle School Advisory. Not to be left behind, Minu Thomas in the Elementary School psychology department wrote a grant to bring the School Yoga Program from Little Flowers to elementary students and to train teachers to use the techniques in their classrooms each day. Coming full circle, in 2017, Bill Meyer again approached the Foundation this time with an exciting proposal to create a Mindfulness Fellowship. Teachers from across the three schools would work to create a K-12 guide for incorporating mindful techniques and practices into the school culture as a whole and to integrate the mindfulness work being done in the three schools into a cohesive whole. The hope is that Bronxville might become a model of mindfulness in education and train other school districts as well.
Fourth and fifth graders created anitbullying public service announcements and premiered their videos before an audience of peers and teachers. Using professional-quality camera equipment, the students took on the roles of writers, directors, producers and actors under the guidance of Mike Feurstein, a filmmaker, educator and Don't Wait to Unmake a Bully program creator. Fourth graders participated in the Don't Wait to Unmake a Bully project, while fifth graders participated in the Don't Wait to Unmake the Mediasphere, which focused on issued around social media. The fourth graders' work with the Don't Wait project was supported through a grant from the Foundation in 2018. Due to the program's success with the fourth graders, it was expanded to include the fifth graders in 2019. The program reinforced the important messages of standing up for yourself, standing up for others, and apologizing when you make a mistake. Creating these meaningful PSAs was an innovative way to engage students in antibullying conversations.
A research study done by Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) entitled, “Lean Out: Teen Girls and Leadership Biases” suggests that when presented with names for student council presidents that are commonly recognized as male or female, students were least likely to support giving more power to the student council when it was led by a white girl and most likely to support giving more power to the student council when it was led by a white boy. The HGSE study further suggests that in order to address gender bias, educators and parents should use programs and strategies that build girls’ leadership skills and challenge teens’ biased assumptions and beliefs about gender. Director of Curriculum, Dr. Mara Koetke, presented the Foundation with this research and a grant request to partner with Girls Leadership Institute, an organization founded by Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. Girls Leadership is now providing Saturday workshops for girls and their moms across all three schools to help develop the self-awareness and self-advocacy skills necessary for leadership. Other schools that have partnered with them previously include Brearley, Spence, Dalton, Ursuline and the Pelham and Mamaroneck School Districts. Selected members of the faculty and administration will also participate in a three-day Girls Leadership workshop to raise awareness of unconscious bias in the school environment and receive tools and research to share with faculty.
Freshman Transition Program
Moving from Middle to High School is daunting so the High School Guidance Counselors approached the Foundation to support a Freshman Transition program that would pair High School seniors with groups of incoming freshman. The program kicked off with a trip to Sharpe reservation for the freshman class and their senior leaders for team building and ice breaking activities. Seniors met throughout the year with their assigned freshman to provide a familiar face, answer questions, talk about typical high school concerns and make sure that all freshman were finding their way. The program not only makes sure that new freshman are comfortable but provides a valuable leadership and community service opportunity for seniors.