IC-Frederick Douglass Academy Partnership

Established in 1997, the Ithaca College-Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) Partnership is a collaboration between the College and FDA, a public middle/high school in New York City's Harlem community. This partnership emphasizes collaboration on four major goals:

  • To use the unique strengths and resources of each institution to enhance the learning environment of both and to help support one another's goals;
  • To foster a deeper understanding of the lived experience of students of color in a New York City high school by encouraging students and faculty from both institutions to cross cultural, social, and economic boundaries to work together;
  • To have Ithaca College serve as a consistent college "presence" for FDA students and faculty and find practical ways to help students with their stated goal of acceptance to college;
  • To provide Ithaca College teacher candidates with hands-on experiences that encourage urban education teaching.

Why work with a school in New York City?   In quality teacher education programs, teacher candidates need opportunities to experience urban education firsthand. FDA offers Ithaca College teacher education candidates a chance to participate in an urban school where there is a clear, successful vision. 

What is special about FDA?   FDA has a fully articulated, unambiguous philosophy: that every child can and will be academically successful. Students at FDA are held to high expectations, and FDA faculty and staff make it possible for their students to meet those high expectations. This is an excellent model for Ithaca College teacher candidates to observe, and we are fortunate to be invited to partner with our FDA collaborators to develop high-quality urban field experiences for IC teacher candidates.

How do you structure partnership activities?   Ithaca College teacher candidates and faculty travel to FDA during the week of fall break for the week-long Urban Education Field Experience. During this field experience, IC teacher candidates plan and lead college workshops for FDA students, shadow FDA students, work with small groups of FDA students, and plan and teach whole-class lessons in their content areas. This work is undertaken under the supervision of Ithaca College faculty supervisors. During the summer months, FDA students and teachers spend time on the Ithaca College campus taking classes in the Summer College for High School Students or participating in specially designed workshops. Occasionally, during the academic year, there have been specially planned partnership activities that bring FDA students and teachers to campus.

What are some of the other activities that the partnership has undertaken at FDA?  Many of our teacher candidates have participated in special events like teaching the novel The Color Purple and then taking FDA students to see the Broadway play; helping to supervise and learn from a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; assisting with the FDA student trip to the anniversary celebration at the Apollo Theatre with Ossie Davis and the Fisk University Singers; helping to organize a visit to FDA for then-Commissioner Richard Mills and other representatives of the New York State Education Department so that they could see the partnership in action; visiting Harlem firehouses after 9/11 with FDA students and teachers to thank them for their service during the crisis; teaching FDA students about both the novel and the opera, The Great Gatsby,  and then taking them to see the debut of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera House; enjoying a performance and talk-back at FDA by Ithaca College theatre majors of For Colored Girls; a “professor in residence” program where selected FDA teachers and their students work on projects over the year and work directly with Ithaca College faculty who are “in residence” at FDA at various times throughout the year.

What are some of the other events that the partnership has undertaken on the Ithaca College campus?  Every year FDA students participate in the Summer College for High School Students. Some of the other activities have included: a media literacy workshop to explore subliminal messaging in television programming; a communication skills institute where FDA students selected an important topic of interest to youth today, researched their topic, and then presented their speech to an audience of Ithaca College students and faculty; a biology seminar where student compared the ecology of New York City to that of Ithaca; a writer’s workshop where FDA students practiced the art of essay writing; a video and newspaper workshop for FDA students that ended in the viewing of an original video and the publication of a newspaper created entirely by the students;  a drama workshop that culminated in FDA student performances of scenes from famous plays like  For Colored Girls…; a careers in science hands-on workshop to explore opportunities in the sciences; an “I know my rights!” workshop where students learned the history and the challenges to some of our legal rights today.

Who knows about this work?  The partnership has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It has also been featured on New York 1 News and WSYR.  Funding support has come from the 3M Corporation, The ASCAP Foundation, NYNEX-Bell Atlantic, New York State’s 21st Century Learning Grant, Zurich Financial Markets, the Friends of FDA Board, the Starr Foundation, and several anonymous foundations and donors.