Advising New Roots Charter School's literary magazine
By Alexa Salvato
New Roots Charter School is a unique high school in downtown Ithaca. The school, comprised of about 200 students from 18 different regional districts, has a central lens on social justice and environmentalism through which all academic curriculum is perceived. It is currently in its fifth year, which means New Roots is in the process of renewing its charter.
This year, New Roots has an increased focus on literacy and involving students in reading and writing. This endeavor includes putting up pictures of teachers and staff with their favorite books, improving classroom libraries, and introducing a Sustained Silent Reading period in which everyone in the school reads at the same time.
The first-year Park Scholars participate in Community Plunge, a program where we work in groups and serve at two different nonprofits in Ithaca.
One of the organizations my grouped worked with was New Roots, which is how I first got involved with the school. At New Roots, we were expecting to clean out lockers, but a freshman and sophomore English teacher, Sue Schwartz, said she wanted us to help integrate new books into her classroom library and file out ones that students didn’t want anymore.
I love books more than anything, and also have a background working in my hometown’s public library, so I was quite excited to do this. Two other volunteers and I filed the books in and out, and the teacher gave me permission to completely reorganize the whole library by genre. I came up with the different groupings while another girl made decorative labels for where the books would go.
After my experience in Community Plunge, I decided to become a regular volunteer at New Roots. Schwartz told me some of her ideas for the school’s literacy program, including setting up an informal book exchange in a crevice of the hallway where kids love to hang out. I’m now helping with this project, which will begin next month after all of the books are collected from a parent-organized book drive for school.
I’m also the adviser of the New Roots literary magazine, a student club that meets every Friday. The group is still coming together; the majority of students in the school are not confident in their writing ability, don’t think writing is fun, or are reluctant to join clubs. Right now, we are accumulating writing pieces by responding to prompts that I create for them each meeting. In a few weeks, we will begin the editing process, as well as raising funds to get the magazine printed. We hope to have our first issue out before the students’ winter break.
I’m so glad to use my background with literacy and literary activities to energize a whole new community of students into caring about writing and reading. An interest in these topics allows students to not only express themselves, but also foster an interest in learning. It is a slow process, but ultimately, I will be proud to help the students create an original publication of which they are truly proud.