Council Speaker Corey Johnson was joined by Council Member I. Daneek Miller, NAACP leaders, school officials and the DOE at P.S./I.S. 116 William C. Hughley in Jamaica last week to announce funding for a unique learning program, one that will give students access to laptops in addition to boosting their literacy and math skills.
This year, the City Council designated $1 million of its budget for the NAACP to purchase more than 1,300 Dell Technology Chrome notebooks to be integrated into the students’ curriculum alongside KneoWorld technology-based learning programs and tech-supported platforms.
The first of its kind, the program is named the Hazel Dukes Education Initiative after the NAACP State Conference president.
Dukes was an instrumental force behind the program, working relentlessly with the City Council since 2018 to ensure it stayed focused on balancing the uneven well of resources in lower-income neighborhoods compared to wealthier school districts that can supplement budget funds from within the community.
“What we looked at here was not about integration or moving children, but about equity,” she explained of her vision for the initiative.
The schools participating in the pilot program are Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72, Richard S. Grossley J.H.S. 8 and P.S./I.S. 116 William C. Hughley in Jamaica, and P.S. 1 The Courtlandt School in the Bronx.
“These kinds of partnerships are crucial in setting our students on a path to success,” said Miller. “We are committed to closing the digital education gap and providing technology enrichment and education to our students of color, who are disproportionately impacted by lack of access to technology in their classrooms.”
Laptops distributed as part of the initiative will be installed with KneoWorld’s game-based learning app, which navigates the importance of storytelling as a tool across all content areas in the classroom.
The platform engages students in the learning process, while at the same time tracking analytics that measure the child’s progress in various subjects and skills.
Teachers, parents and administrators will be able to use this information to accommodate the particular needs of each student.
KneoWorld operates with the goal of finding technology-based solutions to closing the achievement gap.
With the Hazel Dukes Education Initiative, the City Council is not only helping to accomplish this by providing access to the technology, but also equipping it with a program to support learning for students of all abilities and backgrounds.
“For too long, your zip code has determined you future,” said Johnson. “It has determined the kind of education you’re going to get and it has even, sadly, determined your life expectancy.”
“With this grant, not only are we teaching our children to fish, we’re teaching them how to buy the pond,” added Jaqueline Arrington-Pinkard, president of the Greater Queens Chapter of The Links, an organization that has invested in P.S./I.S. 116 for years.
The Links funded a recorder program to replace the dying music curriculum at the school, as well as began a partnership to bring a dental bus on site at least once a year.
The blossoming technology program in collaboration with the NAACP is yet another step toward a more nourishing and equitable educational future for the youth at the school.
“This is an added resource not only for the school, but for the children and even their parents,” said Dukes. “This is the best Christmas present they could receive.”