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Case Study: South Brooklyn Community High School

A Crew Initiative School in Red Hook, Brooklyn

South Brooklyn Community High School is a transfer school in Red Hook, Brooklyn that serves students who are under-credited and at risk of aging out of the school system. Because students at transfer schools like South Brooklyn sometimes work multiple jobs or help support families, the road to a diploma can be a challenging one.

“But crisis can be opportunity,” says Kelley Wolcott, an English teacher and the Crew Guide at South Brooklyn.

Kelley, a former teacher at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies, a NYC Outward Bound school in Carroll Gardens, came to South Brooklyn believing in the power of Crew to integrate social-emotional support into academics — exactly what her transfer students needed to finish their high school careers.

Starting last year, Kelley and the staff at South Brooklyn joined NYC Outward Bound Schools’ Crew Initiative to work on implementing a daily Crew session where students could:

  • plan and set personal and academic goals
  • identify and foster their individual strengths
  • build a stronger sense of community

Kelley noted that while it will take time to build consistently high-quality Crew programming across the school, South Brooklyn’s practices and philosophies already aligned well with the Crew model, so staff were primed to support its development.

“The [Crew Initiative] training is high-quality, it’s well-prepared, it’s well-thought out in terms of need and it’s adaptable,” says Kelley. “I like the way NYC Outward Bound uses the practice of building and modeling staff Crew within the trainings. If the experience is good and you build that solidarity among each other, it’s infectious.”

Data Dive

Now over a year into their Crew journey, South Brooklyn has seen noticeable growth in student agency and its connection to future success. When student surveys were first administered in Fall 2021, only about half of students said they felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions in classes and/or Crew. Halfway through their second year of Crew, that number has grown to 85% of students.

Percentage change of students who feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions in classes and/or Crew.

Similarly in Fall 2021, when students were asked about their future plans, only about half said that their classes and/or Crew were helpful in preparing them academically for college or other paths. A full 10% of students answered only “a little bit” or “not at all.” Now, halfway through their second year of Crew, 75% of students are finding the support very helpful.

“Students have verbally expressed that Crew feels like a safe space that they are able to grow in,” says Jonny Altrogge, NYC Outward Bound Schools Crew Coach. “They have also taken some leadership in Crew by facilitating different aspects of the Crew lesson,” — a goal of this year’s coaching plan.

Prior to February’s winter break, South Brooklyn students spent a Friday in Crew reporting on their own academic strengths and growth areas using a student-led conferencing tool that Kelley was able to adapt from a fellow Crew Initiative school.

“The more power you give the students, the more responsive they become,” adds Kelley. “And that’s part of the NYC Outward Bound model. It shouldn’t always be about the adult in the room.”

The data reflects this shift in culture. In Fall 2021, 54% of South Brooklyn students felt that their strengths were being acknowledged in class. Now, that number has grown to 80% of students.

“If you’re failing a class, your Crew Advisors and counselors don’t make you feel bad. They try to help and build your confidence,” said Tasia, Student Body President at South Brooklyn. “I just love Crew. It’s a motivation for me to come to school.”


Percentage change in students who feel their strengths are being acknowledged in class.
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