Interconnected & Engaged

... with Yonkers + Bronxville

From the earliest days of her presidency, Karen Lawrence has encouraged the community to come together around social justice issues and public service. Underscoring the College's commitment to its neighbors, she included in her inaugural celebration the mayors of both Yonkers, the fourth largest city in New York, and Bronxville, the one-square-mile village near campus.

Since then, Sarah Lawrence students, faculty, and staff have strengthened long-standing ties and made new connections, whether they be with seniors in assisted living or at-risk youth, newly arrived immigrants or incarcerated women, low-income families or high-ambition high school students.

Take a quick glimpse at just a few of the many ways service and learning go hand in hand.

Happy Anniversary

Community Partnerships

When President Lawrence arrived in 2007, the Anita L. Stafford Community Partnership and Service Learning Program celebrated its 10th anniversary. Now marking its 20th year, the program is more vigorous and vibrant than ever, working with nearly 30 partner organizations and placement sites.

One of the longest relationships: St. Iglesia Memorial de San Andres, a church that provides essential services to residents of the surrounding community, including a food pantry, after-school tutoring, English language classes, and a summer camp. In one of the many initiatives at San Andres, some student-led, Sarah Lawrence undergrads worked alongside Bronxville High School volunteers, supported by the Rotary Club of Bronxville.

Research Ready

High School ScienceWhat's it like to conduct college-level, hands-on lab research? Inquisitive high school minds want to know—and advanced Yonkers science students in Sarah Lawrence's summer intensive get the chance to find out. Free to selected participants, the annual program allows teens to work side by side with college students under faculty guidance on projects that aren't scripted, unlike experiments typically carried out in high school or most other college programs for high school students.

Whether delving into molecular biology, organic or synthetic chemistry, physics, robotics, or computer science, the highly motivated teens say the experience confirms they have the stuff to thrive in a college science program. Separate DNA using electric current (gel electrophoresis)? Been there. Extract proteins from E. coli bacteria? Done that.

Gryphons Give Back

Health & Wellness

Sarah Lawrence athletes are building a fan base and earning accolades—for their community service efforts. The Gryphons were recognized at the 2016 NCAA Convention, garnering an award for volunteering in Yonkers at William Boyce Thompson School. Student-athletes and coaches plan and supervise three recess periods each week for more than 100 children in grades K-6, including one group of special education students. Prior to the start of the program, many of the kids sat idle during recess, because budget limitations made it necessary for the physical education teacher at Thompson to work in several other district schools as well.

The Gryphons also offer free soccer and basketball clinics to city children, and they've raised money for a variety of causes, from the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics to the Strides for Sandy 5K that provided post-hurricane relief. And the student-athletes regularly lend a hand at the Food Bank for Westchester and at the AFYA Foundation, where they help sort, inventory, and pack surplus medical and humanitarian supplies for worldwide distribution.

Lifelong Learning

Creative Aging

Sadie Lou alumni are experts when it comes to lifelong learning. So it should be no surprise that the College has been collaborating since 2010 with Wartburg, an award-winning provider of residential and day services for older adults in Mount Vernon. Students, faculty, and staff engage seniors through theatre outreach and dance/movement therapy programs, service learning courses, and student-led initiatives, helping the center carry out its creative aging mission.

“We work together to test out ideas and programs,” says Ann Frey, Wartburg's director of volunteer services. For example, students interviewed residents in the memory care unit about their favorite music, developing customized playlists to stimulate recollection and connection. And a course called “Synapse to Self: Neuroscience of Self-Identity” included a digital storytelling project. “The creativity, curiosity, and compassion of our students are a natural fit,” says Mara Gross, director of community partnerships. “It's a great way for students and faculty to meld theory and practice, which enhances learning for everyone, traditional-age students and older adults alike.”

Making an Impression

Photo by Chris Taggart

When the Yonkers Public Library opened an art gallery at its Riverfront Library (in the former Otis Elevator factory along the city's revitalized waterfront), the director turned to the College to help develop a vibrant, educational, and artistically exciting space. A member of the art history faculty served as the first curator, and soon after opening, the gallery featured an exhibit of Sarah Lawrence student printmakers' work. In connection with that exhibit, Kris Philipps (visual and studio arts) and undergraduate assistants conducted a workshop on the art form for Yonkers high school students.

Walk the Walk

Immersive Experience

It's simply not enough to theorize in a seminar. To really grapple with social justice issues, students can't just talk the talk. Several immersive programs now offer opportunities for real-world relationships and experiences, providing context for conversations.

The Pre-Orientation Civic Engagement Program gives first-years the chance to roll up their sleeves and roll into fall semester with friends who share their interest in community-based work. Incoming students live communally in a local church—sleeping in the parish hall, preparing meals together, participating in team-building activities, and volunteering in community gardens alongside local residents.

The Intensive Semester in Yonkers cohort delves into issues such as environmental and educational inequalities. Three complementary courses incorporate fieldwork exploring social, historical, economic, educational, and environmental issues facing contemporary urban America.

The Community Leadership Intern Program in Yonkers covers basic living expenses for students who want to spend the summer working for a local organization. Speakers at weekly seminars present practical and theoretical perspectives on community-based initiatives, allowing the students to talk about their experiences with a theoretical underpinning and develop their leadership skills.

Growing, Together

Community GardensVacant lots don't become lush gardens without plenty of hard work—and teamwork. That's why SLC students join forces with residents in Yonkers to clear trash, debris, weeds, and vines and to cultivate produce for more than 2,000 low-income residents. Students work alongside fellow Enviro-Earth Club members—typically about 40 neighborhood kids and teens—at 10 community gardens sponsored by the Greyston Foundation. The result of the combined efforts? A harvest of tomatoes, squash, onions, cucumbers, kale, spinach, lettuce, string beans, basil, cilantro, thyme …

Performing a Public Service

Theatre Outreach

Established in 1973 by Kwame Johnson '74, MFA '77 and carried forward by Shirley Kaplan (theatre, emerita) and Allen Lang (theatre), the Theatre and Civic Engagement Program is more vibrant than ever. Take Little Pea, for example, an original musical for children performed at the Hudson River Museum. Star of the show? A colorful peacock whose castmates include a blue jay lost in the museum and a robin who works as a museum security guard. Created by Kaplan and Lang, Little Pea complemented the museum's exhibition, Strut: The Peacock and Beauty in Art.

Theatre and Civic Engagement has introduced Shakespeare's dark prince of Denmark, Hamlet, to almost 200 high school students with special needs; presented the ensemble-written Selfies to seventh and eighth graders exploring responsible use of social media; and, most recently, projected a site-specific video performance piece on the walls of the Riverfront Library throughout the spring as part of Experience Yonkers, an urban light and sound display.

College Prep

Research TrainingWriting an extended essay based on thorough research—now that's something Sarah Lawrence knows a little about. So when local high school juniors in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) are preparing to write their required essays, the College provides essential training.

Twice a year for more than 10 years, Research Services librarians have collaborated with colleagues at the Yonkers Public Library and IBDP teachers at Yonkers High School to conduct full-day sessions with 50 to 100 teens. The professional librarians also offer optional one-on-one consultations throughout the year.

A two-year program, IBDP incorporates a public service project and culminates in an admission qualification recognized by many colleges and universities worldwide.

Counting Crabs (551)

Photo by Victoria Garufi / Ryan Palmer

Blue crabs, to be specific. And banded killifish (211), hogchokers (15), moon jellyfish (700), mummichogs (76), naked gobies (5), and spotted hakes (1) … along with more than 20 other species of aquatic critters living in the Hudson that found their way into seining nets at the Center for the Urban River at Beczak in downtown Yonkers in 2016.

A regional leader in water quality and green urban infrastructure initiatives, the Center's mission includes expanding the College's research program in environmental science, K-12 Hudson River education, and citizen science—for example, tallying and tracking fish, frogs, and other wet and wild friends.

Every year, more than 5,000 children and teens from nearly 60 public and private area schools participate in the Center's interactive and experiential programs. A recently published curriculum guide for fourth and fifth graders, Three Rivers of Yonkers, and lessons on climate change for high school students stimulate interest in science and encourage local youth to become stewards of the Hudson, Bronx, and Saw Mill rivers.

Blue Skies & Bluegrass

Yonkers Arts WeekendDuring Yonkers Arts Weekend, Sarah Lawrence students take their creativity to the streets, storefronts, and parks of the city. At the annual spring celebration, they've helped kids turn themselves into walking masterpieces at a wearable art workshop; showed festival visitors how to design and build puppets and how to bring their creations to life; and presented new theatre pieces and works in progress. Marshall Field and Company, a student bluegrass ensemble, performed at the historic Untermyer Gardens—surrounded by Grecian-influenced structures, including an Ionic open-air amphitheater, a Corinthian temple, and a Doric stoa (porch).

Child's Play

Child DevelopmentPicture it: no television or videos, no computer games, no devices of any kind. Just a safe space filled with low- or no-cost “loose parts”—cardboard boxes, twigs, string, fabric scraps—and kids free to use their own imaginations. It's called a Community Adventure Play Experience (CAPE).

In an age of standardized tests and preschools fixated on academics, the Child Development Institute (CDI) promotes unstructured play as a crucial element in early development. Children can experiment and create, investigate and discover, explore and experience—developing vital cognitive abilities. Put simply, play is an ideal way for kids to learn and build social skills.

Introduced in 2010, the CAPE program has grown from one event that year to 35 events with trained facilitators between April 2015 and August 2016. Last summer alone, more than 650 children participated, and in just the past three years, well over 1,000 children took part in events at the annual Yonkers Riverfest.

Additionally, CDI's annual spring intensive, Play's the Thing: Facilitating Play and Therapeutic Aspects of Play, has now served more than 200 professionals, including early childhood teachers, social workers, therapists, children's museum educators, playground developers, and New York City parks department personnel.