Hunts Point of View

The Birth to College Pipeline Through the Eyes of a Scholar

A photograph taken by one of the Summer Smarts Scholars when Jessica chaperoned a trip to the American Museum of Natural History

This summer I was a communications intern for the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Aside from visiting the Bronx Zoo once as a child, I had not spent time in the Bronx and had never heard of Hunts Point. Even though I was a newcomer to both the organization and the neighborhood, I learned quickly of the impact that HPAC was making in the community.  One of my roles as the communications intern was to interview HPAC scholars of all ages.  It was directly from them that I learned what the birth to college pipeline looked like through the eyes of a scholar.

My introduction to the HPAC pipeline was through the littlest scholars in the Early Childhood Program. The “boat” (889 Hunts Point Avenue) is one of the play spaces where early childhood programming takes place. I will never forget how when I asked one of the little girls what advice she would give her parents, she replied that she would ask them to take her to the boat everyday. I could see how much she loved it there. Later on I visited Summer Smarts, a kindergarten readiness camp. There, I received a thorough medical checkup by an aspiring 5-year-old doctor. She listened to my heartbeat, checked my ears, gave me a shot, and even made sure to nurse the “booboo” after. Dramatic play helps children start career dreaming early — playing doctor and explaining all the steps of their operating procedure as they give you fake shots. For some of the students, Summer Smarts is their first exposure to a school setting.

I’ve also gotten to know the other side of the pipeline: the high school scholars. Most have participated in HPAC programming for years. Some of the students were part of Shakespeare Ensemble, a program for 4th to 6th graders that is run in collaboration with the Shakespeare Society. From the way that the scholars described their experience, I could tell how deeply their participation affected them. Students perform a Shakespeare play in original language after having analyzed it to fully understand what is going on. Through Shakespeare, many students discovered a love for theatre and joined acting clubs in high school. I was also impressed by the impact of the Young Writers Program.  Students reflected on how it helped them discover themselves as writers and one scholar even mentioned that the program helped her face her fear of public speaking. It is clear to me that the skills and confidence students gain from these programs will be beneficial for the rest of their lives.

The successes that Hunts Point Alliance for Children achieves in their programming is due in part to how important they believe the community they serve is. Whenever I walked outside with staff members, I noticed they are always stopped to talk and catch up with someone in the community.  One of the students who I spoke to told me that HPAC sees what the community needs and does what is necessary to fix it.

I remember the day when I truly understood why HPAC exists. At the end of my second week, HPAC hosted its first Celebrate Success Picnic to acknowledge all of the scholars’ hard work throughout the year. I was moved by the staff’s kind and personal words to the graduating seniors.  It also inspired the younger scholars to see what could be achieved if they continued to work hard.

The students of HPAC have dreams to become human rights activists, doctors, computer engineers, and early education educators. During their time as scholars at The Hunts Point Alliance for Children they develop writing skills, confidence, and the empathy to make this happen. I’m truly grateful to have gotten to know the Bronx and Hunts Point from the perspective of these incredible students.

Jessica Toib is a rising junior at Baruch College who is studying digital marketing. She was placed at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children as a summer intern through Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. In her free time, Jessica enjoys photography, art, and trying new food.

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