Here's the Difference You Are Making

Morningside Center's Executive Director shares stories about the transformative impact you've had on two schools this year through your support of Morningside Center.

Help us reach our $40k goal by the end of June! 

I’m writing to let you know how much you and your support for Morningside Center mean for young people and educators during this most difficult year. Your contribution is changing lives. I hope you’ll continue to have a powerful impact on students, staff, and families in the new school year by renewing your support this spring! 

smiling student

   Students are greeted by name every
   day – and always asked for their
   feedback at the end of the day.

I want to tell you about the difference you have made in two schools this year. They are among the 600+ schools that receive in-depth training and coaching in social and emotional learning, racial awareness and equity, and community-building from Morningside trainers each year. Your support also enables schools to implement restorative practices, leading to a huge drop in suspensions (72 percent in schools that sustain the effort).   

But what does your support really look like in a school? At a school in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, the assistant principal said that Morningside’s trainer has worked closely with teachers to bring about a critical shift:

“She got  to know the PreK teachers and then exposed them to new possibilities. She encouraged our teachers to ask kids, ‘How are you feeling?’ and to ask them for feedback at the end of the day. Even kids who are three or four can engage in that way. They’re very opinionated!”  

Our trainer also got teachers throughout the school to begin welcoming each student to class by name and to look at them while doing it (even when class is on camera). 

“Because of remote learning, this is our toughest year to connect and build relationships. And yet,” said this school leader, “not only was there a shift in focus and priority, but also there was actually success in building connection. Even our attendance rates have increased. That’s huge!  I truly believe the reason is that parents know that we value their children.”  

A second story about the transformative work you are supporting comes from a guidance counselor at a school in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She said that her school has been devastated by Covid. Grief has been a constant presence in the lives of both students and staff. But with school operating online, there was no physical comfort or face-to-face support to be had. 

“School is such a big source of connection for our students and staff,” said the guidance counselor. “There’s so much missing, so much that’s not possible.” 

center piece

   In classroom circles, students share a 
   value that is important to them and why.

And yet, students and teachers actually got closer this year. In fact, they’ve experienced a cultural shift at the school that she hopes will outlast the pandemic: “More and more, I’ve witnessed how people are slowing down and checking in with one another – and that’s also happening with the students. There’s more of a culture of listening.” 

In previous years, advisory class (akin to homeroom) had been “a drain” for both students and teachers. Now it has become “a place of conversation and connection. Staff are thinking creatively about how to connect with students – especially with those who are grieving.” 

The guidance counselor says she hasn’t seen this kind of connection in the six years she has worked at the school. This has inspired students to engage, especially in advisory class: “Students are invited to express how they are feeling. They are asked for their opinion and listened to.” And in turn, students are investing in school in ways they hadn’t before. They’ve begun to co-create advisory sessions with their teachers by helping to shape the content of advisories and to co-facilitate them. 

I loved what this guidance counselor said about the respectful way our trainer is helping to bring about this transformation. “Our school has a particular way of being,” she explained, and Morningside’s trainer understands and honors that:

“Morningside helps us stretch as a school to become what we want to be. To become a place of growth, empathy, and compassion. They’ve been so helpful in meeting the needs of our school while pushing us to grow.”

I want you to know that YOU have made this change possible. And your help is still needed at this school and in school communities across New York City and beyond.  Please give generously to Morningside Center so that young people and educators can build connections that enable them to grow and thrive!  

With warm wishes for a healthy and restorative summer,

Cassie Schwerner, Executive Director


P.S. We’ve learned that in both of the schools above, the connections that students and staff are forging has ignited interest in bringing parents more fully into the community of care. We’d like to bolster that with free online workshops for parents from all schools – and your gift will make that possible. Thank you for making the circle of care wider and stronger!