On November 12, Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement Natania Kremer and a swift team of Upper School students held a half- day Community Issues Conference for the BFS Upper School as well as other independent school students and faculty in the new BFS Upper School at 116 Lawrence Street. Tenth grade co-organizer Anthony H. described the purpose of the event: “The goal is for all of us to learn about significant local community issues, to connect with representatives from local partner organizations doing incredible work, and to identify ways that we, as young people, can support constructive change in the community.” There were 40 speakers representing 25 organizations; six of these were BFS parent presenters and one was an alumna. Twenty five students and teachers from Dalton, Lycee Francais, Packer, Poly Prep, Trevor Day, and Chapin were invited to attend as well.
Ishmael Islam, New York City’s 2012 Youth Poet Laureate, began the day with an opening performance and remarks. Raised in Bed-Stuy, Ish is a well-known artist in the city around the country. He has won numerous awards in addition to performing in venues like the Apollo Theater and at Emory University.
The vast array of important issues explored in individual seminars at the conference included police brutality, gun control, climate change, human trafficking, and homelessness, among many others. “We hope the conference will generate interest, curiosity, understanding and an incentive to become involved and take action,” said 10th grade co-organizer Michaela G.
Partner organizations included the Brooklyn Autism Center, Covenant House, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the program for the Study of Reproductive Health at Yale University, and the Sikh Coalition among many others.
Upper School Head and attendee Sidney Bridges participated in several of the seminars and was effusive in his praise of the entire event. “There’s a buzz of pride and inspiration among our students, guests, presenters, parents and ourselves,” he wrote to the Upper School faculty and staff afterward. “It’s remarkable that our students–largely through Natania’s sedulous guidance–conceived, researched, built and ran this conference…It’s great our school has taken such a strong step forward at 116 Lawrence.”
The full text of the program is available here, and please enjoy the video below created by BFS student Amanda B: