Friends, family, and supporters of the International Elementary School [IES] community gathered with mascot Orby the Owl to celebrate the school’s official opening at its new home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on Oct. 12 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We are not only celebrating International Elementary School ribbon cutting, but we are also celebrating 15 years of Prospect Schools,” said Tresha Ward, Chief Executive Officer of Prospect Schools. “Fifteen years ago in Sunset Park, we started our first school with about 90 sixth-grade students with a dream of creating a community where all kids, regardless of race, background, etc., could come here and thrive equally. We could create a beautifully diverse community that represents the culture of Brooklyn and allows our kids to learn from one another in a space where they can all thrive. And 15 years later, we’re celebrating having seven schools, K through 12, serving 2400 kids. We are proving what’s possible and feeling the impact of what we were trying to create.”
Ward then spoke about the alums who have graduated from Prospect School network schools throughout the years and are now thriving in college in the workforce, five working in Prospect’s very own schools.
“Here [at IES], we have Miss Demi Peña-Chavez, who is BPHS Class of 2018, who is now a teacher here,” Ward said of the new kindergarten teacher. “She came back here to make a difference.”
Today, the school serves 424 students. It’s come a long way since its founding as International Charter School in 2015.
The small school started at 55 Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn with kindergarteners and 1st-graders. It then grew by a couple more grades and took on a second location on Hanover Street. It merged with Prospect Schools in 2021, moving to 80 Willoughby Street. Principal Emily Carroll addressed the fifth-graders attending the special event about this part of their school history.
“We’ve been through quite the journey,” she said, pointing to music teacher Mr. Kyle Garcia seated on stage behind her. “Mr. Kyle would start his day in one building and walk down the street to another building to continue teaching our students. And then we joined Prospect Schools. We have shown that despite all those locations, we have grown, and our students have seen many amazing things, but how exciting it is to be in this historic community in BedStuy and to be able to grow in this beautiful building on Macon Street. We are a community that has been very resilient in many spaces.”
Carroll then quoted a lyric from Bedstuy, Brooklyn, bred rapper Jay Z:
“… remind yourself: Nobody built like you, you designed yourself!”
“And so I change it to say … we are designing our future, and now we have a forever home for our roots to intertwine and grow in this forest. I’m so excited for our fifth graders ending this journey with us in this space,” Carroll said before turning it over to Mr. Kyle and the Brooklyn’s Children’s Chorus, who sang a beautiful rendition of “Cover Me In Sunshine,” a song originally sang by the artist, Pink.
And then various school and network leaders joined Prospectors for the big moment—the ribbon cutting!
In the building for the joyous occasion were friends and supporters of Prospect Schools, such as Natasha Cherry Perez of the New York Charter Schools Association, and representatives from the neighboring church, St. Martin de Porres, whom Ward called “our wonderful landlord and a fixture in the community since 1868.”
Also in attendance were the team from Tower Consulting, the FDNY expediters who helped ensure all of the fire alarm system sign-offs and inspections were timely, DBI Consulting, the project management team who were primarily responsible for leading the complex project and ensuring the completion of the renovation of the beautiful historic building, Loci Architecture, who was responsible for the beautiful project design; the construction team at Talisen, with whom Prospect has now partnered on at least half a dozen projects over the years, this being the largest; the crew at LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), which provided the funding for the project.
All photos by Rafael Infante.