For some students, academic struggles don't always originate in the classroom. The latest New Yorker of the Week identifies with many of these kids and devotes each day to building a strong foundation for their futures. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
Focus on yourself. Support others. Work together as a team. These goals are sometimes challenging to reach, especially for students dealing with more than just academic needs.
"How is a kid supposed to sit in a classroom and concentrate when they're living in a shelter or they're constantly relocating? And I don't think they'll be able to," says George Lavezzary, the latest New Yorker of the Week. "So we help provide some skills to be able to cope with those things."
Lavezzary has been providing that support to young New Yorkers for years. The Brooklyn native is the program director of Partnership with Children. The nonprofit works to strengthen the emotional and social skills of students living in low-income neighborhoods.
"It's OK to have emotions. It's OK to have to anger, right? But it's what you do with the anger and how you deal with the feelings at large," Lavezzary says.
Lavezzary oversees programs at dozens of schools across the five boroughs. Educators say they can see a difference. Attendance increases, grades improve, and there are fewer disruptions in the classroom.
"My favorite quality that Partnership has is, love is the most powerful feeling," says Irene Spence, the principal of Brooklyn Gardens Elementary School. "There's teamwork, speaking up for yourself, working together, compassion, empathy. It's really touching, digging into the piece of the heart."
"It teaches all of us respect and how to calm our anger down," says student Mason Rivera. "Like, instead of using our fists, we could use our words."
Partnership With Children has touched the lives of thousands of students from kindergarten to high school.
"His personality is really engaging, and he works really well with the students. He treats them all really respectfully, but as people, and so they feel like they're important when he's here," says Emberli Edwards, a site supervisor with Partnership With Children.
"Mr. George is a superhero, because he does want us to think more and deeper, and I think he wants us to be very talented as him, but even more talented," says student Shamel Sanford.
So, for helping students overcome life's barriers to learning, George Lavezzary is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
For more information about the organization, visit partnershipwithchildren.org.