THE CAUSE: Supporting Educators in Urban Schools

As the Nyack College School of Education continues its year-long observance of its 50th anniversary and its commitment to providing academically excellent preparation in an NCATE-accredited environment, there is a post-graduation level of empowerment that Nyack-grown educators and their colleagues enjoy.

Seeds for the initiative that would be called The Cause were planted in the heart of Professor Miriam Velez, a Manhattan campus faculty member, when she recognized the encouragement that alumni needed, particularly those serving in the most challenging urban settings. It was also a vision shared by other Christian educators.

Dr. Vernard Gant, director of Urban School Services with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Prof. Velez and her Nyack colleague, Dr. Marie White, dialogued about the “battle fatigue” that teachers in urban schools were experiencing. Dr. Gant shared his vision for establishing a network of Christian educators who are compelled by the love of God and empowered by the Spirit of God to impact the hearts and minds of students in academically disenfranchised, culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged environments. This intersection of vision led to the first Cause meeting in 2013, which was held on the Nyack College campus, then located in Manhattan on Worth Street.

Drs. Velez and White invited their network of school leaders and alumni to that daylong meeting. The morning session was open to New York educators working with children in impoverished neighborhoods. The afternoon was exclusively dedicated to Nyack College School of Education alumni. Dr. Gant spoke on, “People of Faith Addressing the Educational Plight of Poor and Disadvantaged Children.” This message ignited the flame which continues to burn in the hearts of those who now use the model developed by Drs. Velez and White.

In his address, Dr. Gant pointed out, “Many children today are matriculating through school without the relational undergirding that makes for academic success further jeopardizing their life chances. These children are starved for the relational component to such a degree that it profoundly impacts their learning outcomes in much the same way that a lack of food does. While they play an important role, children aren’t ultimately impacted by textbooks, curriculum, pedagogy, bulletin boards, buildings, or even credentials. Whenever an individual recounts life transformational moments, it is almost always exclusively in reference to people. When it comes to relating, the people of faith have at their disposal the greatest most transformative power in all of creation—agape love.

As a result of the next several gatherings in New York City, attendees Laura Rodriguez, former Deputy Chancellor, New York City Department of Education, and Genice Reid, retired principal, emerged in leadership roles and have been instrumental in overseeing the groups in Queens, Rochester, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and soon, in the Bronx. (pictured l-r), Miriam Velez, Genice Reid, Marie White, Laura Rodriguez, and 2013 Nyack College alumna Alyssa Cruz.

These small groups of Christian educators meet monthly throughout the school year. During the summer, they plan social events to maintain their relationships and often meet in homes or other venues. They encourage educators to pursue their calling and honor Christ in all they do to make a significant difference in the lives of academically, culturally, economically disenfranchised students.

The collaboration of Drs. White and Velez with other Christian educators gets to the heart of what Dr. Gant spoke of nearly five years ago when he stated, “Effective educating is a matter of both the content of the written curriculum and the connecting with the educator—the living curriculum.”

The Cause is another stellar milestone on the timeline of work carried out by dedicated educators at Nyack College School of Education.