Fundraiser and Auction Helps to Expand ‘Door-opening’ International Baccalaureate Program - Brooklyn Prospect Charter School

Fundraiser and Auction Helps to Expand ‘Door-opening’ International Baccalaureate Program

The Prospect Schools community gathered at its Sunset Yards campus on April 6 to celebrate the network’s 15th Anniversary with a cocktail fundraiser and auction. 

Thanks to the generous contributions of supporters, $156,000 was raised to expand the International Baccalaureate diploma program, including covering the costs of IB tests for the upcoming year and providing specialized professional development training for network teachers. An additional 30,000, raised via silent auction, will bolster the network’s efforts to provide supplemental programming that empowers students to excel and thrive academically.

“We’re here to deepen the impact and reach of our International Baccalaureate on behalf of our kids,” said Tresha Ward, Prospect School’s Chief Executive Officer. “One of the things I’m really proud of is the expanded access to our prestigious International Baccalaureate degree program, which ALL of our 11th and 12th graders are opted into. 

“The IB program is a door opener for students to a life full of opportunity,”  Ward said.

A Dream of Diversity 

Close to 230 people converged at the event, held at the network’s newest campus in Sunset Park—just blocks away from where Brooklyn Prospect Charter Schools was incubated with a cohort of 100 sixth graders back in 2009. 

Luyen Chou, one of Brooklyn Prospect Charter Schools’ founders, addressed attendees, recalling the many conversations that led him and co-founder Dan Rubenstein to conceive the idea for the network 18 years ago when they were carpooling to graduate school classes in Manhattan.

We came up with the crazy idea that our own neighborhood here in Brooklyn could be the home to a world-class middle school that was reflective of the diversity of New York City, that had a global international baccalaureate curriculum and drew the best and brightest educators of both public and private schools around the region,” Chou said. “Three years later, that dream came to life in Sunset Park about 200 yards from where we are tonight. And, through the incredible work of so many of you here tonight, we’ve been able to continue that initial mission and expand the vision of Prospect Schools beyond our wildest imagination.”

Other highlights of the evening included:

  • Three of the Network’s founding team members—Hillary Prince, Chief Financial and Growth Officer; Anita Walsh, artist-in-residence, and Kelly Vaughan, science teacher—being honored for their more than 15 years of service,
  • A special performance by the award-winning Brooklyn Children’s Chorus, comprised of Prospectors from International Elementary School, during the VIP cocktail hour, and
  • Music by celebrity dancehall DJ Max Glazer of Federation Sound.

Results That Speak for Themselves

New York City Councilman Lincoln Restler (D-33), delivered some brief remarks at the event. Describing himself as “brutally honest,” he said he was a “charter school skeptic” when he was elected to the City Council two years ago. 

But I kept hearing the best things about Brooklyn Prospect,” Restler said. “And, I went for a visit at the school that I have the privilege of representing on Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn and I was deeply impressed. I was impressed to see that the teaching core and the staff at Brooklyn Prospect were far more diverse than at our DOE schools, that the Brooklyn Prospect community was effectively serving children with special needs, and that more than 40% of the students at Brooklyn Prospect are coming from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

NYC Councilman Lincoln Restler (D-33)         (all photos by Rafael Infante)

 

Restler said he is saddened when he talks to Black and Latino parents in Brooklyn who say they opt to send their kids to private schools because they find them to be more diverse than your average city public school.

That’s just crazy to me—that’s how segregated most of our public schools are,” he said. “We need high-quality options that celebrate diversity and really do deliver academic rigor. Fifteen years of impressive service to the community is something to be celebrated. As the Council member of District 33, Brooklyn Prospect is the charter school I believe in and am proud to support and partner with. It’s not easy, but the results speak for themselves.” 

Prepared and Confident

A special evening moment involved CEO Tresha Ward conversing with 2018 Brooklyn Prospect High School alumna Somia Azzam. A 2021 Brooklyn College graduate, Azzam recently got an opportunity to work at one of the Northeast’s only diffusion labs—one of eight in the world—to conduct medical research via a post-grad opportunity with SUNY Downstate. As she prepares to apply for medical school, Ward asked how Prospect Schools and an IB curriculum have prepared her for this moment.

“I compare myself to my friends who graduated from large public high schools in New York City, and the opportunities I was given based on the support I had at Brooklyn Prospect was completely different,” Azzam said. “When you’re in college, and you hear about ‘office hours,’ it is daunting. Had it not been for Brooklyn Prospect teaching me how to maneuver office hours, what to ask, and what to do, I wouldn’t have been as comfortable in college.” 

Azzam also credited the rigor of her higher-level IB Biology and Psychology courses with giving her a great head start on the rigor expected of those courses in college. 

“Had I not been exposed to those classes at such a young age, I don’t think I would have continued my path of being pre-med,” she said.  

Celebrating with ‘Inspired’ Parents and Friends

Many Prospect Schools parents were in attendance in addition to friends and other supporters.

AqilaCrisha Lodai, a mother to two Brooklyn High School students and one Clinton Hill Middle School student, said she had an “amazing” time. “It was a beautifully curated gathering of educators truly devoted to children, family, and community, for every student to achieve and become leaders in the world.”

Angie Khawly, mother to a Sunset Yards Elementary School kindergartener, said “diversity was beaming” at the 15-Year Prospect School Celebration. 

“My heart is full knowing that Brooklyn Prospect’s mission is to teach the next generation of humans to be worldly independent thinkers by creating access to the IB program for all students,” she said.

Angie’s husband, Ralph Khawly, was equally enthralled by the evening. “As a new member of the Prospect School community, I was deeply inspired by the swift unity displayed in meeting our fundraising goals. The event did an amazing job of highlighting the profound impact the school has had on its students over the years. I eagerly anticipate witnessing my son’s growth within this nurturing educational environment.”

Somia Azzam, BPHS ’18