11th Grader Wins First Place at Bronx Rotary Club’s 2021 Essay Competition


Last week, 11th grader Jeleny Mendoza won first place in the Bronx Rotary Club’s 2021 Essay Writing Competition which was in honor of the organization’s founder, Bea Castiglia Catullo. Students were asked to write about how they’ve seen leadership and perseverance in their communities and within themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read Jeleny’s award-winning essay below…


The Benefit of Love: How My Neighborhood Changed Me by Jeleny Mendoza

This essay is in honor of Bea Castiglia Catullo who served her community. She helped those in need during tough times through her humanitarian work. She helped give millions a better life through being a nurse, building better places, and loving her community.

“I remember seeing the world shut off, my window was lonesome and pale. Not a single person in sight, and little by little my life felt like it was falling apart”. These were my grandmother’s first words after she recovered from the virus. She was able to finally speak and it was the only thing she could say with tears in her eyes. We only talked through the phone because we were restricted by the pandemic to even visit each other for my health, her well-being, and everyone else’s safety. I remember thinking to myself at that moment about the people who don’t have family members, who will never be able to touch or say hi to them ever again.

I finally realized the significance of kindness during these tough times as I saw outside in my neighborhood the joy and generosity many of my neighbors gave to each other. It’s not a surprise that the pandemic has left millions without jobs thus leaving them without income, resources, and most importantly tranquility from the uncertain. Although, seeing Mrs. Laura handing out boxes to all the people that were in need at the corner of Hunts Point and Bryant, Ms. Ivett knocking on our doors and asking us if we needed anything, handing out information about food banks and financial empowerment to the residents in our community. And how can I forget about my grandfather who handed every single person he knew an envelope with $50 for their necessities. My whole community chipped in. The owner at the corner store allowed for people to take a certain amount of items, go home, and pay whenever they could. For the last year or so, I was surrounded by incredibly kind individuals, families who gave each other a hand and thus made me reflect on the change I wanted to see in the world.

But change comes from within and I finally took a minute, realizing I hadn’t done enough, I set out to expand my services outside my home without actually leaving it – arriving at a beautiful internship that connected me to the Urban Health Clinic and programs such as the United Nations and National Honor Society that allowed me to see the change and make a difference through my actions. We made presentations on how to cope with the pandemic at the end of June 2020 and donated to an orphanage in The Dominican Republic. The most satisfying thing at the end of the day was seeing their smiles and the thought of them having new clothes – more instead of less which unfortunately is what many have experienced during these tough times.

Yes, it’s true I didn’t have much to give but sometimes there is nothing better than support or a helping hand, and like a wise man once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”- Martin Luther King Jr.

Hyde Community Comes Together Through Food and Flowers

On Friday, May 7th, Hyde hosted a community food giveaway outside of our high school building which provided food boxes to 925 Hyde and Hunts Point community members. Hyde also distributed direct cash assistance for groceries to 300 family members thanks to a special partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation. Through the teamwork of our dedicated Hyde teachers, staff, and board members, the food giveaway was open all day. When reflecting on the event, one parent said, “Hyde to me is an excellent resource and great help to myself and my daughter. They have come through more times than I can think of and I’m so very appreciative for that.”

The event was also adorned with red roses which were gifted to Hyde’s hard-working mothers and mother figures in celebration of Mother’s Day. Not only did this event equip our families with critical food resources and healthy foods, but it also provided our community the opportunity to visit with one another, enjoy the warmer weather, and celebrate Mother’s Day. The Hyde team is thrilled with the success of the afternoon, and we are so glad to have been able to see and assist our wonderful families in Hunts Point.

Hyde Juniors Win First Place at City-Wide American Debate Tournament

On Saturday, April 24th, Fatoumata Cisse and Adama Bah, two 11th graders at Hyde, won first place at the American Debate League 2021 Spring Classic Tournament! Fatoumata and Adama teamed up to debate if the benefits of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) outweigh the harms. Adama describes the IMF as being “a financial support team for any countries that need money.” They argued primarily for the cons of the IMF, citing that their main points aimed to expose the apparent corruption and ulterior agendas of the institution. They competed against ten other schools, including Riverdale Country School and Garden City High School, and took their arguments all the way to gold.
Upon being asked what the most exciting moment of the tournament was, Fatoumata notes, “When you’re in the debate and you realize the other team messed up and you know we can really jump on them in this argument, we can really beat them right now, that’s the most exciting part.” Adama echoes Fatoumata by adding, “It’s so exciting when, on the spot, you find a different way to attack the other team’s argument.” When reflecting on their biggest supporters, Fatoumata shouts out her father who helped them find strong pieces of evidence for their arguments. Additionally, Adama attributes much of her passion for debate to Mr. Fusco, Hyde’s debate team leader, and Ms. Hunsinger, who developed Hyde’s debate team. Fatoumata and Adama also attribute their accomplishments to their teamwork and friendship, “I think the main reason for our success at the tournament was because the both of us really get along together,” Fatoumata points out. “I got my best friend, Fatou to compete with!” exclaims Adama.
When considering potential career paths, Fatoumata describes, “Most of the career paths I want to go towards have to do with public speaking, and debate is a really good tool for that.” Adama reflects on her goals by adding, “I was always interested in law. I think I’d want to do criminal law and be a prosecutor… If I become a prosecutor I could have the power to change the system, and then hopefully over time I’ll become a senator or a mayor.” We can’t wait to see what these two first place debaters will do to change the world with their skills in public speaking, research, and argumentation.

Second Graders Practice their Financial Literacy with Ally Bank

On Friday, April 16th, our second grade students attended an exciting introductory lesson on finances which was hosted by Ms. Dana Sanker, the Chief Financial Officer at Ally Financial. Through this presentation, our students learned about the importance of beginning a savings account, collecting interest, and being able to differentiate between wants and needs. Ms. Sanker taught students about these concepts through a virtual picture book as well as an engaging game of jeopardy.

Ms. Sanker shared her screen to read aloud from a picture book titled Adventures with Money: Emma and the Cosmophone. This book shared the story of a young girl named Emma who learns about hard work, starting a bank account, earning interest, and spending her money wisely in order to eventually afford a “Cosmophone”. After reading the story, students were divided into two different groups for a game of jeopardy which included questions about important topics from the book. Our students were eager to answer questions about the story in order to put their knowledge to the test. Some of the questions were “What helped Emma decide to start working and save money?”, “What is the difference between a need and a want?”, and “What is interest?”

Mrs. Shirley-Clarke, a Hyde elementary teacher who facilitated this event, reflected on the valuable lessons our students learned when stating, “Events like these are super important to our scholars’ growth. It is not just building wise minds, but character…. Scholars got a chance to understand that being financially aware can start at a young age.” Ms. Sanker’s storybook and interactive game encouraged our students to listen to, learn about, and engage with important financial topics. Events like these help to teach our students necessary life skills from a young age which they can hone as they grow. Special thanks to Ms. Dana Sanker from Ally Financial for showing us that students of all ages can begin to practice financial literacy in unique and playful ways!

Hyde’s Elementary Students Celebrate Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! To celebrate our planet, Hyde’s elementary students enjoyed this week’s sunny weather and planted seeds outside during recess. Through this activity, students learned more about the importance of Earth’s natural processes and resources. By carefully potting their seeds, nourishing them with water, and personalizing their plant’s cups with hand-drawn decorations, students were able to foster a more personal connection with nature. One of our 3rd graders, Denisse Urbina Diaz, expressed excitement about her seeds when saying, “I’m having fun because now I get a flower friend!… I’ll name it Flowie!” Another student, Leysha Suarez, explained that Earth Day is a day for us to “make a team so that everyone can gather up and help the Earth.” By taking the time out of their weeks to plant seeds, our elementary schoolers were able to learn more about Earth Day, honor our planet, make new “flower friends”, and reflect on the ways that we can all team up to better our environment.

Middle School Parent Discovery Night Spotlight

On Tuesday, April 13th, Hyde’s parents/guardians joined K-12 faculty members for a virtual Parent Discovery Night filled with exploration of personal identity and discussions of the pandemic’s effects on daily life. Below is a glimpse into the way our middle school partnered with parents/ guardians during the event.

Led by our Director of Home and School Partnerships, Ms. Yvonnia Wise, the night began with introductions and opening remarks which congratulated both faculty and parents for their hard work and outstanding dedication to Hyde’s students throughout this challenging school year. Ms. Wise then facilitated a full group activity titled “Look at Me Now!” during which parents and faculty members were instructed to draw a self-portrait that reflected aspects of their identities that they are proud of as well as goals that they have for the future. This exercise served to highlight the mission of the night which was to designate time for both parents and faculty to focus on themselves in a safe and inviting environment.

After drawing their self-portraits, parents and faculty members split into small breakout rooms where teachers facilitated open and honest seminar discussions about how the pandemic has affected them. By asking self-reflective questions about how COVID-19 has changed their lives, teachers and parents were able to learn more about each other, connect with one another, and share their triumphs as well as their struggles. After these conversations, the faculty members in each breakout room facilitated short games in their small groups. Together, parents and teachers played games like Two Truths and a Lie, Would You Rather, and Zoom scavenger hunts. Upon reflecting on the event’s successes, one parent described, “Preparation and presentation were what made playing the games so enjoyable, fun and relaxing.”

By taking the time out of their busy schedules to have some fun and self-reflect, Hyde’s parents and faculty members were able to connect and bond with one another in an open and engaging environment. One of our participating parents explained that they “feel such a stronger connection to the community of Hyde parents” after the night’s events. This positive feedback shows that events like Parent Discovery Night uphold Hyde’s mission to always provide a safe space for self-exploration, not only for our students but also for their parents and guardians who are crucial members of our community. 

Virtual Tour of The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Our elementary students put their detective skills to the test during our virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C, a historic museum whose collections focus on many famous Americans.

Alongside specially trained gallery educators, our young portrait detectives searched for and analyzed clues to learn more about historically significant Americans. Additionally, through discussion, sketching, and writing activities, our students were able to closely compare and contrast portraits used across the collection.

Each class in our elementary school is named after a person that represents African or Hispanic culture. Furthermore, our kids have been studying influential people of color related to this year’s academic theme of identity and anti-racism such as Celia Cruz, John Lewis, AOC, Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, and more. Using the National Portrait Gallery programming as a guide, and artist Kehinde Wiley as inspiration, our kids created their own portraits and showcased them in our annual Black History Month Showcase!

Student programs like Portrait Detectives are offered by The National Portrait Gallery with the goal being to expose students to leaders who have shaped our nation through the power of portraiture. Combined with Hyde’s programming, it allowed us to teach our students the importance of leaving a legacy by exploring identity through art!

Black History Month Spotlight: Virtual Career Panel Series

During this year’s Black History Month, Hyde’s high school students have been attending weekly virtual career panels which showcase professionals of color. These events feature panelists who each exemplify excellence in varying fields, from science and healthcare to law and journalism. Each panelist speaks about their experiences as a Black, Latinx, or Native American professional in the US and answers questions about their careers asked by Hyde’s high schoolers and student moderators.

On February 10th, biomedical and human factors engineer, Patience Osei spoke to Hyde students about her experience as a Black woman in STEM by highlighting the importance of self-confidence and vigor. “You’re in a room filled with white men, and you just have to be confident and remember that you’re just as capable,” explained Patience. When describing her work ethic over the years, she spoke of the unjust truth which is that, too often, minorities must work immensely harder than the majority to fill the same positions and receive the same level of recognition. With this in mind, Patience emphasized “If you have that grit within you, you can still push forward.”

Jennifer Saint-Preux also joined the events as a panelist representing Black women in law. As the first attorney in her family, Jennifer worked hard to receive mentorship in the legal field by seeking out lawyers to network with. This mention of networking sparked a valuable conversation about the importance of connections and networking in the professional world. Hyde students expressed curiosity by asking questions about the hows, whens, and whys of networking, prompting Jennifer to note, “Networking is hard and awkward. Your teachers are people you can network with. Be present and engaged with figuring out what their interests and hobbies are… It costs nothing to be kind.”

Armani Harris (‘22), a student moderator of the panels, reflected on the events when stating, “Something that stood out to me is when the panelists were telling their stories it spoke to me and it was telling me to just go out there and get it on my own without a handout.” As Armani suggests, each panelist has offered invaluable advice which exemplifies the power of perseverance within communities of color. Informative events such as these which center around skills in networking and a strong work ethic prove to be essential towards supporting both the educational and professional growth of our students.

After providing motivating words of wisdom, the panelists made sure to conclude by emphasizing the importance of being kind and true to yourself when looking towards the future. “Nobody knows what they’re doing… ” explained Jennifer Saint-Preux, “… and it’s ok to cry, just pick yourself back up again.”

The Elementary School’s Virtual Black History Month Showcase

Students Dijme Sissoko (top left), Camila De Paz (Top Right), and Dorian Johnson (Center) presenting their student projects.

Celebrating Black History Past, Present, and Future.

In our first Virtual Black History Month Showcase our K-3 students and staff came together to celebrate black excellence in the past, present and future.

This year we celebrated the many contributions of influential black leaders using guiding principles of creativity, purpose, self-determination, and unity to inspire our students’ projects. We learned a lot about these figures through student made book covers, magazines, videos, portraits, and speeches. Some of the figures included, Jackie Robinson, Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Michelle Obama, Mae Jemison, Bessie Col, Rosa Parks and many more. 

We had performances from our very own Hyde Choir, Hip-hop Dance Club, Hyde Elementary Dance Company, and even a special guest appearance from Dj Kool Herc! Our students worked so hard on their projects. It was so heartwarming and amazing to see how much our students have learned this February, and how their love of learning, incredible creativity, and EXCELLENCE shined throughout the showcase.

“I learned that it’s not just for Black History Month, it’s about honoring the people before us.”

– Quran Bell, 3rd grader.