Hillside Arts and Letters Academy (HALA) is a small school, in its second year of operation, located in the Jamaica High School building in Queens. HALA has approximately 200 students, divided between 9th and 10th graders, and will eventually grow to a four-year student population of roughly 400. The principal, Matthew Ritter, was previously Assistant Principal at Bushwick High School for Social Justice in Brooklyn, and has recruited a team of teachers who share his vision of an arts based curriculum for college bound students. For full disclosure, one of the HALA teachers is Matt Yellin, who has been a guest writer and a featured subject of this blog.
We were struck by the insight even the shyest students had developed about themselves as learners and what they would need to do to meet their academic and future goals. We thought the quality of the work they presented was strong, but it was the informal interactions we had during the day that were, perhaps, the most impressive aspect of our visit. The administrators we met were aware of every aspect of the school and their commitment to excellence was clear from their focus on how the students were doing and what the school could do better. The teachers we spoke to were serious about their dedication to their students and to project based learning. Students were lively, but unfailingly respectful to each other and to adults. They spoke about how they were glad to be there and how they had come to understand what they needed to do to succeed in school and in life.
|You can read a terrific blog post about how the HALA students and faculty collaborated with artist Ryan Seslow to create a logo for their school.|