Thoughts from the Farm

Upon returning to class on Thursday, UAGC students reflected on their experience on the farm with our friends through Manhattan Country School:

We all had chores - my group had to give cows grain. Each cow had a specific amount of grain based on their age/size. ‘Chippy’ was a teenager and he only ate a half-pound of grain. Then we’d give them water and use a pitchfork to scoop out hay and manure and put it in a cart that we dragged into a huge bin so they could use the manure as fertilizer for the soil. Then we put in new sawdust and brushed the cows.
— UAGC Students

"We all took turns - taking care of pigs - actually we just fed the pigs, we didn't need to take care of them"

"I'll remember milking the cow - and when that goat tried to jump on me"

"It's peaceful, much quieter than New York - especially the mornings, going out for a nice walk, sitting on the swing by the river."

"All New York students should have this opportunity."

Leida's Spoken Word: Change Is Beautiful

UAGC student, Leida Resendiz, won a scholarship and was selected to perform tonight at First Baptist Church's Black History Month Concert.

Congratulations, Leida!

Read the full text below, including her performance notes.

Leida Resendiz performing her spoken word poem,  Change Is Beautiful,  at First Baptist Church, Manhattan

Leida Resendiz performing her spoken word poem, Change Is Beautiful, at First Baptist Church, Manhattan

Change is Beautiful

From a young age mom taught me that the only race in this planet was the human race (positive, factual).

She looked me in the eyes and said, “never judge someone because of the color of their skin, but instead celebrate the differences we bring.”

So I always woke up with a smile, and listened as a president brought “change we can believe in.” (channel Obama)

He brought hope and showed that we are “Greater Together” and for a time, that was enough. (become soft)

But change can go both ways. People change, parties change, and presidents. They change too.

They say we need to “Make America Great Again,” like we haven’t been trying for the past 63 years to overcome the ignorance that separates us.

That put us in different schools.

Different bathrooms.

Different parts of a bus.


But difference can be beautiful, and can alter who we are.

Difference brought us Martin Luther King Jr,who said “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

That inspired strength, and that difference made Black Panthers bare their fangs and roar for justice.

It made people listen. And when people listen, they can change.

They can dream. (pause) I have a dream.

That dream is to fight discrimination, to celebrate who I am. Who you are. Who we are.

To remember that change took something from us, so we need to change to bring it back. Because when times are low, we must go high.

So today I am here to remember the Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for what the peace we have today.

I can't imagine living in a world where there is so much hate against people of color, and neither could Martin Luther King Jr. So he didn’t.

There will always be discrimination, but if we all come together I know there will be a change.

If we stand up together, fight together, have our voices heard together, we will overcome that change, because “we’re stronger together.”

Support Students Pursuing Their College Dreams

Created by UAGC Junior Azra Muratovic

Do you remember the time you went to go visit a college?

The day you stepped off the bus and walked on college campus. Strolling through the college hallways and streets is a completely different feeling than looking at the school online. 

At our school, the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers (UAGC), a public high school in New York City, juniors have been devoting their time into researching colleges and have gained a passion for them but cannot determine if these schools would be the right fit for them.

At UAGC, our college counselor’s office is the only resource we have to explore and get an input on schools. 93% of our students live below the federal poverty level and many have parents who work multiple jobs in order to put money in places that are more of a necessity like rent and food. As well, over 90% of the students at Green Careers are first-generation college going students. Given that many students are first-generation, parents tend to lack knowledge about navigating and planning the application process. Johancarla, a member of UAGC's junior class is a first-generation American born student to immigrant parents who believe that education is their child's ticket out of poverty, is also hoping to be the first person in her family to go to college. Neither of her parents attended college, and her family has relied heavily upon the expertise of the school's staff to help them navigate the complicated application process.

The trip will take place in late April and we will be visiting New York State’s Capital Region. Over the course of two days, we plan to visit 4 different college campuses including public and private. These experiences will be crucial in finalizing our application plans, as visiting a college campus is often the best way to determine whether or not it is a good fit.

These students simply can’t afford a trip like this and it cannot happen without your help. We thank you in advance for your support in making our college decision.

Donate now or help spread the word!

Alumni help welcome New Students!

Student ambassadors introduce themselves

Student ambassadors introduce themselves

On Friday, September 16 UAGC welcomed its freshman class and incoming students from multiple grades with a morning orientation around our core values - Intention, Collaboration, and Responsibility.

After a welcome from Assistant Principal Luke Janka and some words from our Health Center (all students may receive free health services from our on-site clinic, as well as free vision and dental from our partners at Mt. Sinai), the games began.

Student ambassadors, as well as three of last year's alumni, facilitated community-building activities designed to expose students to UAGC values.

Intention & Collaboration

Student ambassador and UAGC junior Yujeiry Baez facilitates introductions

Student ambassador and UAGC junior Yujeiry Baez facilitates introductions

Each ambassador invited a randomly-selected group of new students to meet a challenge:

Design the tallest tower you can to hold a marshmallow.

Your tools? Straws, masking tape, and a pair of scissors.

Alumni Jailine Estrella, now a freshman at New York University, commented that she had participated in a similar challenge as part of the competitive NYU scholarship program that she won.

However, at UAGC, we don't shy away from a challenge. We took the competition one step farther and made absolute silence mandatory. That's right - you had to be able to collaborate without saying a word.

A moment of laughter breaks out in Yujeiry Baez's group as the straw structure bends under the jumbo marshmallow weight

A moment of laughter breaks out in Yujeiry Baez's group as the straw structure bends under the jumbo marshmallow weight

Alumni Fradaliza Valdez, current Queens College student, works with a silent group of new UAGC students

Alumni Fradaliza Valdez, current Queens College student, works with a silent group of new UAGC students

It's rare for a room of a hundred teenagers to be silent, but all that could be heard was the tearing of tape and the snipping of straws while wild gesticulations were seen across the room.

In the end, everyone aimed too high - each group's creation ended slumped over, unable to support the weight of the jumbo marshmallows Assistant Principal Daphne LaBua-Stenzel had selected.

However, students reflected two fundamental lessons about learning:

Collaboration can be tough, but it makes us stronger.

Alumni Jailine Estrella, center, current NYU freshman, attempts to spread ideas without speaking

Alumni Jailine Estrella, center, current NYU freshman, attempts to spread ideas without speaking

In the debrief time, students reflected on how they had been dying to talk, but freshman Carlos Hall commented that "There was a lot of body language," saying you had to be able to "read each other's minds. New junior Jeremy Santana commented that "eye contact" was key.

Real listening that leads to true collaboration requires such skills. Each day, in every class, students are encouraged and expected to collaborate - to do so effectively requires some grit.

Mistakes can be tough, but they make us stronger.

Alumni Paloma Paredes-Jaquez, current Hunter College student, laughs with a group of stumped students

Alumni Paloma Paredes-Jaquez, current Hunter College student, laughs with a group of stumped students

To paraphrase Thomas Edison, students didn't fail, they just found multiple ways that didn't work.

At UAGC, the process is worth as much - and usually more - than the final product. Freshman Carlos Hall commented that "I looked around, and knew that most of the foundations weren't sound, and I thought we could just build a short tower and win. But my group wanted to go taller and so I didn't argue."

Another student commented, "That's why you don't just go with the flow." A strong lesson on intentionality if there ever was one.

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Collaboration & Responsibility

A heated moment of debate over sustainability

A heated moment of debate over sustainability

The second activity involve solving a real-world, close-to-home problem. In the Brandeis cafeteria, there are three bins marked for specific types of rubbish - compostable, recyclable, and landfill trash.

Unfortunately, most students campus-wide pay no attention to the designations and throw whatever into any bin. In the end, the janitors can't sort out the compost or recyclables, so all the garbage ends up in the landfill.

Students - this time they could speak - were tasked with presenting a solution to this perplexing problem to school administration and ambassadors. However, they only had 15 minutes to brainstorm a solution and design a presentation for it.

One of the more creative presentations involved students standing in for the wastebins

One of the more creative presentations involved students standing in for the wastebins

Right away, groups began sketching out both ideas and, with the help of the ambassadors, the many genres in which they could present those ideas. In the UAGC Genre Practice writing program, students need to do exactly that sort of work - develop an intention and choose the best genre(s) that will communicate to your intended audience.

Some groups created skits, proposed commercials involving garbage filling the halls of Brandeis and eventually consuming all of the city, or designed technological solutions involving shocks and flashing lights for misplaced rubbish.

They then presented these ideas to the group, to much applause and commendation.

Perhaps it will lead to a new program of sustainability on our campus. At the very least, students learned to collaborate, together, to solve a real problem in their immediate environment. It's the sort of work in which UAGC students participate - day in, day out - from reading groups studying segregation and discrimination to building science students developing the best sustainable structures.

In the end, we were all excited.

There is a strong community at UAGC, and this year's new students are a vital part of it. We can't wait to see what they have to bring, and what they will gain, from our community. Here's to another great year!

New Parent Orientation is coming up on Wednesday, September 28 at 5:30pm.

Don't worry - we won't make you build straw towers, unless you want to!

UAGC Students Attend Broadway's Fun Home

On Wednesday afternoon, students from every grade level attended Broadway's Fun Home, winner of Best Musical.

Fun Home traces the coming-of-age of lesbian author Alison Bechdel, from her youth, to her years at Oberlin College, and finally to the present, where Alison, now grown, is struggling to write her own graphic autobiography.  As Alison reflects on her past, she struggles to make sense of it, particularly her relationship with her father, Bruce, a closeted gay man and the owner of the family business -- the Bechdel Funeral Home (“fun” home, as it’s known to young Alison and her brothers, John and Christian).  As she watches her father’s self-loathing consume him, Alison recognizes her own experience of discovering, and ultimately embracing, her identity.  As Fun Home progresses, Alison is drawn deeper and deeper into her memories, finally entering into them, desperate (but unable) to reverse her father’s self-destruction.  An unforgettable and groundbreaking musical, Fun Home explores the haunting pull of memory and the power it has to alternately destroy or shape, our identity.

Here's what students had to say:

I was most surprised by how they set things up and the way they changed the stage. Also the fact that a lot of older people went to the play. I thought that there would be less older people because homosexuality wasn’t normally except during their childhood.
— Franchesca Mejia, Class of 2020
The confidence the characters showed will stick the most to me. I think I’ll be more open to people around me.
— Gabriella Heyward, Class of 2020
What I most remember about the show was my sympathy to the character Alison and her mom., because she had hard time telling her parents that she is a lesbian. Her father did not take it well which resulted him to his death. As for the mother, I really felt bad because she took all the crap from the husband, such as betrayal and disrespect. Throughout the whole show, I was just mad at the dad.
— Sharon Lopez, Class of 2020
I was most surprised by the ticket prices for sure, I think our tickets were like 165$$, that’s how much I pay for Jordan’s . . . When the dad revealed he was gay, it shocked me. Made the story interesting . . . Thanks for the company (CEI) who provided the tickets - thank you. If I can watch it 100 times over I would.
— Isaac Tejeda, Class of 2016