New HS Boasts New Vision for Academic Excellence

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Local parents and students! — Are you on the hunt for a high school? Great news! Though Rockaway is not an oasis for secondary school options, there is new a kid on the block already providing promising pathways for local high school students’ passions and aspirations.

Humanities IV Charter High School (Hum4), a new college and career preparatory public charter high school, located at Beach Channel Educational Complex (100-00 Beach Channel Drive), just kicked off its second term with an excited band of ninth graders. And judging from students’ gleeful reactions to their all-around experience in and out of the classroom, this diamond in the rough has already established itself as a gold mine for academic excellence.

For example, ninth grader Melanie Ramnarine, who commutes from Ozone Park said, “Hum4 is so much different than any other school I’ve been to. The teachers here really push us to do well. My favorite subject here is Living Environment because I like how the teachers make it fun and give me encouragement, not just to learn, but to excel. I also love the after-school Anime club, because I get to learn a new art that I was never exposed to.”

Hum4 and seven other charter schools are part of New Visions for Public Schools, an organization which has served thousands of NYC students since 1989, and has created over 130 small district high schools across the city. Today, the New Visions network supports more than 120,000 traditional district and charter school students across the city. Hum4, which just opened its doors in Rockaway this past fall, already has 86 students enrolled with 14 staff.

According to Hum4 principal, Hannah Kehn, what sets the school apart from other high schools is its curriculum and approach to learning. 

“At Hum4, we give students the opportunity to re-define their overall high school experience, and challenge the status quo of learning. We don’t micromanage their secondary academic experience. Though we are classified as an arts and humanities school, we offer enriching experiences for students also interested in science and technology. Our goal is to make students empowered to make the world a better place, and most importantly, be responsible for their learning and actions. What sets us apart from other charter schools is that we don’t control students’ behavior and how they learn. We offer a safe space, where they learn that to excel, they must be responsible for their actions and reactions, not just in the classroom, but in society-at-large. This is why our tag line is ‘We’re creating something remarkable,’ and our motto, which we also refer to as our ‘Habits,’ is CREATE: Commit, Reflect, Envision, Act, Trust,” Kehn said.

The school day at Hum4 runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., split into seven periods, including lunch and an advisory period called, “ensemble.” Kehn said in ensemble, students reflect and communicate what they learned during the day. Each day of the week has a different focus including goal-setting, discussions about current events, social and emotional learning, improvisational games with role-playing — all culminating in a final weekly project where they document what they learned during the week and how they can apply it to their student habits.

Kehn said, “These habits reflect the orientation toward learning and participation that we support our students to demonstrate in every classroom. We believe that practicing and reflecting on our habits promotes the kind of awareness, decision-making, focus, and confidence necessary to navigate the complexities of human existence.”

Beyond required courses, students take classes in visual and performing arts curricula and choose an arts focus-area in the 10th grade such as dance, music, theater and visual art. By senior year, students are required to do a Capstone Senior Project, in which they apply their academic experiences and learning to address a challenge or strengthen an asset in their community. The school offers a regents diploma with advanced designation in the arts. Hum4 also offers extracurricular activities such as yoga, chess, anime and astronomy.

Kehn, a 15-year veteran in the education field with a Masters in Education-school leadership from Harvard University and a Masters in Teaching-secondary English from Pace University, said that she has been working on Hum4’s school design for six years. She fell in love with the school site at Beach Channel, and upon occupancy, immediately had all the ceilings and walls re-painted and the bars removed from the windows. “I wanted students to feel comfortable in this space and know how special they are to attend a school where they get to gaze at the beautiful bay and marine life, while receiving a unique academic experience,” Kehn said.

Hum4 is accepting applications for 2018-2019 school year, and note that applications for enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year are still open. The school accepts students through a lottery; there are no exams, essays or interviews. Also, note that English language learners and special-needs students are welcome to apply. Hum4 is also actively recruiting teachers and other school personnel.

Kehn said, “We are aiming to be 500 students strong, actively involved with the local community.” Hum4 is also a member of the Rockaway Business Alliance (RBA) and is a site of RBA’s new technology project, Rockaway ConneX, (see RBA column on page 24).

According to Hum4 scholar, Patrick Paul, all students looking to attend the school need to be committed to envisioning the future. “If you are not ready to envision the future, you should not come to this school. My advice for any student applying here is to be open-minded, and get ready to commit to your academic success,” Paul said.

For further information about Hum4, visit: new visions.org/hum4

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