One of the things we’re proudest of at The Child Center of NY is instilling in young people that there are many avenues toward success, which they can find based on their own individual strengths. You can see this principle at work at August Martin High School, where The Child Center serves as lead CBO (community-based organization). August Martin offers students opportunities to find their niche through such unique courses of study as culinary arts and aviation. In fact, it’s the only high school where students can receive their private pilot license before they graduate.
As lead CBO of this community school, The Child Center works on many fronts to ensure students have the academic, practical, and social-emotional support they need to succeed at school and in life — and pay it forward when they’re able. To foster this spirit of community and giving back, The Child Center organizes the August Martin High School Scholar Ambassador Association, a group of scholars that vows to embody the principal’s vision along with the school’s mission and eight core values of leadership, integrity, communication, collaboration, community, inquiry, advocacy, and perseverance. It serves as the bridge between the student body, school administration, faculty, and leadership. Ambassadors also lead the way for in- and out-of-school community service.
The Vice President of the Scholar Ambassador Association is 17-year-old Isaiah Lovell. Isaiah is a dedicated student who consistently shoots high, earns excellent grades, and inspires others to do the same — and his teachers and Child Center staff who work with him find that they just can’t say enough good things about him.
“Isaiah is a dedicated, punctual, and pleasant student who is always eager to learn new skills and techniques in aviation,” says Earl Black, teacher of Flight Theory. “Students conduct their flight lessons at Republic Airport in Long Island on a weekly basis. They are required to take the FAA examination (written, oral, and practical), and if successful, they qualify to receive their private pilot license.”
With his dedication to hard work and eagerness to learn, Isaiah is well on his way to receiving that license — and helping others to earn it, as well.
“Isaiah is a leader in the aviation class, always willing and ready to help both students and staff,” Mr. Black explains.
Herman Fogah, the Child Center Program Coordinator at August Martin who oversees the student ambassador group with Principal Parnell, agrees. “Isaiah is a leader among leaders. He has great vision and is always taking the initiative to make positive change. Principal Parnell and I can depend on Isaiah to carry out any activity that needs to be done without any complaints. He is extremely willing and determined to fulfill the expectations of his role.”
Mr. Fogah points out that part of Isaiah’s success in inspiring fellow students comes from the fact that he is a relatable role model. “If there is ever a time when a scholar may feel lost and need guidance, Isaiah is the first person I introduce them to. Once I introduce them, Isaiah knows what needs to be done and takes over in building that relationship. He uses his own story of being shy and then becoming a leader to help others who may be more reserved. Isaiah is a mentor who looks out for the entire community and bigger picture while addressing individual needs.”
One of the “bigger picture” needs Isaiah is committed to addressing is attendance. Just three years ago, August Martin’s attendance rate was a mere 70 percent. It’s risen to 82 percent this past year, and Isaiah is dedicated to raising it even more. He sits in on school attendance team meetings to get an understanding of the issue and then gives his input on how all parties can work together to make a change.
Isaiah also speaks at parent meetings, open house events, ambassador meetings, and leadership team meetings.
“By Isaiah being an advocate for change and doing good for all, we are able to work together to complete the various tasks at hand,” Mr. Fogah says.
For example, Isaiah has helped with school uniform decisions and hallway clean-ups, and he serves as a representative from August Martin High School on the District Youth Leadership Council with other schools. He speaks with this team on how to improve August Martin and other schools. He reviews statistics and ideas and brings them back to his own team.
Last year, Isaiah had the opportunity to test his mentoring skills on a different age group: middle schoolers. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of The Child Center’s Dreams Take Flight initiative, Mr. Black and several of his aviation students — Isaiah among them — joined students of J.H.S. 72 to demonstrate flight simulators. One by one, the students got to try out the simulators for themselves. There was spontaneous applause after the first student landed his plane successfully.
Isaiah made quite an impression on these students. “Isaiah held the attention and respect of visiting students, from M.S. 72 and nearby, who were considering August Martin — many of whom happened to be much bigger boys than he,” says Eugénie Bisulco, The Child Center’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, who organized the event. “Isaiah has a presence about him. As though he’s much older than his years, he stood in front of the aviation classroom and spoke about what he’d learned and his plan for the future with an almost serene aplomb I’ve not seen many young people employ. That’s someone you look at and say to yourself, ‘He’ll go far.’”
Isaiah, himself, considers his experience with August Martin and The Child Center to have equally benefited him and given him a chance to pass on that benefit to others.
“My experience with the aviation program has been really great,” Isaiah says. “The teachers are great and patient, and we all help each other get better. The staff at The Child Center helped me with skills you basically need in life, like writing a résumé, working well with others, dressing appropriately for different jobs, using proper tone when speaking to someone, and being respectful to all. They also helped me with the college application process, especially my essay.”
Even when he’s not formally functioning as an ambassador, Isaiah is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to help whenever he can.
“There’s always a chance to be helpful,” Isaiah says. “For example, if someone needs assistance, tell them what you know. They might not know what you know. You might have a fellow student who doesn’t understand a math concept that you do, and you may know how to explain it to them, one on one. You might be able to get through to them better than a teacher that way.”
Now that he has only six months left of high school, Isaiah is thinking a lot about the next step: college. He’s a second-year student in our WIOA Learn & Earn program, which prepares youth for college and careers through tutoring, SAT and Regents preparation, and paid internships and employment opportunities. When he graduates high school, he plans to attend Vaughn College, where he’d like to study to become an aircraft mechanic. “This training will help me,” he says.
Anyone who knows Isaiah is confident he will attain his goal. “Isaiah does not settle for less than the best and possesses a working knowledge of the direction he wants to take. I have no doubt that with his attitude and work ethic, he will become successful at his future endeavors,” says Mr. Black.
As The Child Center of NY celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Youth Development division this month, Isaiah’s story stands out as the epitome of what the division is all about. “Isaiah represents all of the students at August Martin High School who are seeking an adult to believe in them — a consistent adult who has high expectations and provides them with the social-emotional support they need for growth and maturity,” says Amanda Etienne, Vice President of Youth Development. “In this way, we create a safety net and also encourage them to dream beyond high school and motivate them to make those dreams a reality. That is our work at August Martin High School; that is our work in all of the Youth Development programs at The Child Center of NY. We develop confident, goal-driven young leaders who pursue their dreams by boldly seeking the opportunities that will make them triumphant. Our young people are examples of leadership, and they do not hesitate to pour into the lives of others, the same way the adults in their lives have poured into them. It truly becomes a cycle of opportunity.”