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Educators from around the city gathered at the NYC Outward Bound Schools offices in early June to celebrate learnings and achievements from this year’s Crew Initiative program.

Crew Initiative is a program funded by the city and private grants that helps schools build the capacity to implement Crew, NYC Outward Bound’s signature advisory structure that supports social, emotional and academic development. Now in its third year, Crew Initiative supported 52 public schools across all boroughs during the 2023-24 school year, strengthening the conditions needed for student belonging, agency, connectedness, wellbeing, academic engagement and postsecondary planning.

Crew Initiative is designed as an Improvement Network that brings together Crew Guides — the educators responsible for leading implementation at their school —  to monthly convenings to focus on shared learning and impact aligned to a common goal. This space is designed to create a sense of belonging and professional development, so that educators are able to share, reflect, and learn from one another as a Crew of their own, while collectively working to support young people.

This year, Crew Guides participated in one of three “problem of practice” groups, engaging in collective knowledge-sharing and data analysis around a specific topic: Strengthening Students’ Interconnectedness and Compassion, Developing Strong Crew Advisors, or Making Crew Relevant and Meaningful for Students. 

At the year’s final convening, educators shared reflections on the strategies and ideas they implemented, and were joined by special guests NYC Council Member Rita Joseph, Chair of the Committee on Education, and Alan Cheng, Superintendent of Consortium, International and Outward Bound Schools.

“At my school, one of our big victories was much more modeling — I got to open every single staff meeting with a circle activity, which could then be used in student Crews across the school,” said Jim Pratzon, a Crew Guide at Lyons Community School, who participated in the “Students Interconnectedness and Compassion” group. “Every single meeting. One of the fruits of our labors was consistency.”

Jim, who is retiring at the end of June, also shared that this year’s Crew Initiative work was some of the most impactful of his career.

“To me, [Jim’s reflection] highlighted the real power of our work,” said Aurora Kushner, Director of Impact and Continuous Improvement. “The ability to bring together people to build community, our use of continuous improvement tools and resources, along with fostering the mindsets necessary to do continuous improvement — all in service of all students feeling a sense of belonging, agency and connectedness.”

In the “Making Crew Relevant” group, Rebecca Singer, the Crew Guide at Kappa International High School, shared that her students had led a variety of sessions on self-selected topics for mental health month.

“We found that when there’s an elevation in student leadership, it leads to better student engagement across the board,” she said. “Our students want to do more student-led workshops. They really liked engaging with their peers in that way, and accompanying each other through that.”

Council Member Rita Joseph, a former teacher of 20 years, spoke to the group after the educator presentations, reaffirming her belief in the work.

“The data proves that we are doing so well with these programs,” she said. “I’m happy to be here, honored to be in your presence. Thank you for all that you do every single day, no matter how hard it is — we show up for our students.

Join Us!

NYC Outward Bound Schools is currently recruiting for the 2024-25 Crew Initiative cohort. If your school is interested in learning more, visit our website or contact Aurora Kushner at [email protected].

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