Dr. Ramón Gonzalez, principal of the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (LSFT) located in the South Bronx borough, NYC, added a transnational perspective to the After School Dialogue event at the #enrichED Symposium which kicked off on 5 June 2019.
In 2003, LSFT learners were performing in the 2% percentile while 98% of the district’s students were excelling and testing well beyond them. Many of the struggling students experienced homelessness and qualified for free or reduced lunch due to their status of ‘living below poverty’.
With 24 years education experience and a background in gang theory, Gonzalez situates himself on the active side of the critical debate that sees after-school programmes and initiatives not only as a strategic means of academic and structural integration but more importantly as an extension of the school day itself.
expandED day for an expanded future
Referred to as ‘expandED day’, rather than after-school, Gonzalez offers his Grade 6 to 12 learners over 40 activities and clubs made possible through his rigorous and passionate pursuit of partnerships – a total of 23 and counting, comprised of both international and national organisations. Two of the most innovative approaches he detailed include positioning external, gap-year students as teacher-assistants at both the middle and high school level, and a mentorship programme that begins with Grade 12 learners. Gonzalez says the main battle is not to get leaners accepted into college but to keep them enrolled so the mentorship programme guides learners through their first year of college.
The success of his diligent and comprehensive approach is reflected in steady growth data that now situates LSFT learners at the 80% academic performance percentile in a matter of just 15 years.
Rooted in intention and loyalty
Eager to provide his predominantly black and Hispanic students with the same opportunities as their privileged counterparts, Gonzalez utilises an approach rooted in intention and loyalty, producing longevity that is fueled by ‘why?’ He steadily reiterated the idea that when there is a ‘why,’ the ‘how’ will emerge.
Placing his learners at the centre of his academic endeavours, Gonzalez has created a transparent ecosystem that nurtures a community built on value exchange. Despite the environmental pressures, oversaturated with gang activity and high crime rates, LSFD is redefining the trajectory of the youth, cultivating their power and mobilising what it means to be a South Bronx native and student.
By Malanna Wheat