And now, a group of students is bringing those words to life in a new course called Power for Good.
The interdisciplinary offering asks students to pick a problem — one that is alive, relevant and complex — that impacts New York City. Students spend time researching the topic from a variety of angles and discussing the issue with experts. After gaining an understanding of causes and implications, students will design programming that addresses or solves the issue at hand.
Developed by upper school math teacher Marianna Van Brummelen, Director of Learning Initiatives Jason Hult, former CITYterm faculty member Trinity Thompson, and upper school English teacher Darren Wood, the course was created in response to a January 2018 call to action by Head of School Laura Danforth. Danforth asked faculty to “test the limits of your creativity by submitting an innovative idea that would disrupt the Masters experience in a positive way.” A panel of faculty, staff and administrators reviewed a total of six proposals and voted to select three finalists; the finalists presented their ideas to the Board of Trustees during a scheduled board meeting.
The yearlong course, taught by Hult and Wood, kicked off this fall with a case study about school segregation in New York City “in order to introduce some critical thinking skills,” Hult explained. As part of the case study, the students have spoken with Julisa Perez, the 20-year-old executive director of Integrate NYC, a youth-lead organization that stands for integration and equity in New York City schools; and Christina Veiga, a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, a nonprofit news organization that covers the effort to improve schools for all students.
Although the class is just a few weeks old, the students are already brimming with excitement about what they have learned and what is yet to come. The group recently sat around a Harkness table and took a few minutes to discuss why they chose this course and what they have taken away from the case study. Some highlighted the value of learning how to identify an injustice and how to take action. Others noted the importance of investigating an issue from many angles in order to be as informed as possible. Yeveen Shin ’20 also noticed that the class has impacted the way she processes information and considers ideas in her other courses. For all of them, the overarching benefit of the course is simple: They want to learn what it takes to make positive changes in the world.