July 25, 2008
“It’s raining outside but the sun is shining brightly in here,”
said Rev. James J.
Maher, C.M., Vice President for Student Affairs at St. John’s
University, to a crowd of students, parents and teachers from the
New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) who are part of
a new pilot summer program at the University called “Leadership
& Career Academy.” The event welcomed Robert V. Hess, DHS
Commissioner, who was in attendance today to tour the University’s
facilities, visit classrooms and monitor the progress of the
The “Leadership and Career Academy’’ is the first
cross-disciplined academic skills building program of its kind that
allows not only inner-city youth, but their parents, to benefit
from the academic offerings of the University.
“We met with the Commissioner in the winter to speak about the
program and his eyes lit up when we mentioned the possibility of
getting the parents involved,” said Dr. Richard Sinatra, Associate
Dean of the School of Education and Director of the Leadership
& Career Academy. “The Commissioner said, ‘If you can pull that
off we’re in 100%.’ He was a man of his word and made it
“We have the brightest and smartest within our shelter system,”
said Commissioner Hess. “I can’t think of a finer institution than
St. John’s, which allows our students and parent’s participation in
this worthwhile program while getting a quality educational
The program is an outgrowth of the successful summer literacy camp
held at St. John’s for the past 12 years which is co-sponsored by
After-School All-Stars of New York City (ASASNY), the New York City
Housing Authority and St. John’s University’s School of
“All research and experience tells us that people living in
economic need benefit from the opportunity of education,” added
Rev. Maher. “The University is a resource bridge to assist in
providing a pathway toward this goal with the help of DHS, ASASNY
and the New York Housing Authority. The partnership also enables us
to fulfill our mission here at St. John’s.”
This unique collaboration brings inner-city youth ages 7-12, and
parents, many of whom are single heads of households, from seven
transitional shelters throughout Queens and Brooklyn. This four
week program has parents and their children traveling to the Queens
campus of St. John’s to take part in separate, yet coordinated
educational tracks designed to improve their job, personal finance,
literacy, and physical health skills through August 1.
The parents are given intensive writing and computer training
designed to help their children excel in the classroom, and
instruction in urban economics with a focus on personal finance.
Additionally, counselors are available for individual consultations
and career center advisors offer job hunting techniques and
successful interview tips. Fitness and personal health are
also being taught through Yoga and Pilates, to the parents as a way
to relieve stress after a tough day.
“This program has given us a chance to express our feelings and
frustrations,” said Nicole Isaacs, who is participating in the
program as a parent from the Junius Family Residences in Brooklyn,
“I have an 11-year old in the program and he has enjoyed the
experience. And, I have had valuable classes that have taught me
how to manage my money. I only wish the “Leadership & Career
Academy” would go on all summer – that is how much I’ve enjoyed
The children selected to participate follow a thematic
literacy-based curriculum including saying no to drugs and alcohol,
protecting the environment, and becoming good citizens. The
curriculum also includes biology and chemistry lab work, computer
training, tennis lessons and a leadership reaction course taught by
the St. John’s Army ROTC staff and students that is designed to
provide physical activity, as well as to enhance the development of
both independent and team-building skills.
“I have had the privilege to attend classes here at St. John’s.
Each day the knowledge is fresh in our minds and that will help us
when we go back to our schools in the fall,” said Sky Rodriguez, 12
years-old from Bridge2 Family Residences in Brooklyn, NY.
Sky’s mother, Ebony Jones, shared a poignant and emotional poem she
had penned to a group of her peers and volunteer program helpers
from Barclay’s Capital USA at a special assembly later in the day.
The poem titled, “Homeless Is My Situation – Not Who I Am” was a
fitting close to the day’s activities and gave insight into the
meaning of just what the “Leadership and Career Academy” program is
Interested media representatives can contact Dominic Scianna,
Assistant Vice President for Media Relations at St. John’s by
calling (718) 990-6185 or e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about St. John’s can be obtained by visiting the
University web site at www.stjohns.edu/news.