Published April 24, 2014
DNA analysis. Holiday get-togethers. Vocational training.
It’s all happening at Buffalo’s East High School, thanks to a medley of community partners that files through the school’s double doors several times a year to discuss challenges and achievements over breakfast.
The event, coordinated by a Say Yes Buffalo employee who works at the school, provides a window into how various local organizations are banding together to inject energy into the school. The last partners breakfast took place on April 24.
“When we’re at the table trying to find ideas to support our students and get them over the hump, we know we have people that we can go to for assistance,” says East High School Principal Casey Young. “We don’t feel so alone.”
At one breakfast, there are teachers and counselors from the school, along with workers from a nonprofit mental health agency and a D’Youville College program that prepares East students for health care jobs.
UB’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), which helps reinvent science education with more hands-on learning, is represented by coordinator Karen King. The program arranged for biology teacher Patrick McQuaid to conduct summer genetics research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and paid for him to buy a DNA amplifier so he can lead related experiments in class.
One planned activity: asking students to extract and analyze their own DNA.
“Our partners give us access to expertise we wouldn’t otherwise have on site,” Young says. “With ISEP, science and technology moves at such a fast pace that what you learn can become outdated very fast, and the program counters this by giving Mr. McQuaid state-of-the-art training and supplies, which he’s able to share with the rest of our science teachers.”
The community partners helping at East are varied and their efforts diverse.
Contributions to the academic and social life of the school include:
All the organizations working at East have the same goal: to increase student engagement, performance and graduation at a high-needs, urban school.
“If you go into schools in Buffalo, you’re going to see hardworking teachers and caring administrations, and at East, you’re also going to see a multitude of community partners that are bringing real services to students,” says David Rust, Say Yes Buffalo’s executive director.
The objective moving forward will be to improve communication between community partners to ensure they coordinate their efforts in a way that makes sense and maximizes the use of time and resources.
Already, new opportunities are forming. McQuaid’s experience in ISEP led ISEP leadership into a deeper conversation with Roswell Park, which has invited high schoolers to work with institute scientists each summer for the past 60 years.
McQuaid, ISEP coordinator Karen King and ISEP project lead Joseph Gardella, SUNY Distinguished Professor at UB, are working with Roswell officials to develop learning experiences that will help prepare students from East for summer research internships in Roswell labs.