Creating roots through education

September 7, 2012 05:59 PM

We know the school year is here when buses line the morning streets and school supplies fill store aisles. Throughout the Metropolitan New York Synod, schools have opened their doors, welcoming teachers, parents, and children back to a new school year. Here’s a look at one organization and two schools that provide unique ministries to the families and schools they serve.  


logoThe Lutheran Schools Association (LSA) has been serving Lutheran schools in the greater New York City area since 1977 by providing resources and development for teachers and staff. LSA defines its role as being the facilitator, advocate, and partner. As facilitator, LSA offers annual conferences in the fall and spring for early childhood and professional development for K-8. As advocate, LSA works to ensure disbursement of state and federal funding that enables our elementary and high schools to receive programs, technology and professional development that keeps them competitive with the public school system. As partner, the association has arranged vendor discounts, helping school budgets and enabling staff members to receive more insurance options. LSA also walks with schools during an Educational Planning Process (EPP) to address challenges, maintain success in their community and find direction for the future. During this school year, LSA is working especially to strengthen mutual ministry relationships and help schools to be proactive about bullying. 


LSA shows their Lutheran identity in how they help their schools but also by opening every conference and meeting with worship or devotions. Their schools are also encouraged to do community service projects – making a difference and modeling Christian love. Many schools also incorporate chapel services, "welcome back" events or regular time with the church’s pastors. Through LSA’s work, almost 50 schools are able to get the resources they need to make countless student’s education a priority.


image308In Brooklyn, Leif Ericson Day School (LEDS) is a school rooted in both education and spiritual development. In everything they do, they strive to teach their students their values: compassion, community, diversity, justice, and respect.


One of the ways these values are taught are by example. Ms. Ann McCarthy, one of LEDS middle school teachers, often shares the message during weekly chapel, mentors other teachers, and spends her summers doing mission work in a tutoring center in Cebu, an island in the Philippines. Similarly, a group of three teachers recently traveled to Haiti to train other teachers. Another teacher, Ms. Lisa Casale, helped to organize a program that shipped over 300 pounds of candy to the military, encouraging them to befriend children in war-torn areas. 


The ministry of LEDS has a continued impact on those they have served. Students write back to tell of their achievements as valedictorians, studying abroad or attending Ivy League universities. To help more students to succeed, in the 2011-2012 school year they raised money for the Alma Hansen Financial Assistance Fund. $20,000 was granted to LEDS families last year. The principal, Ms. Christine Hauge, hopes that one day every student at LEDS will be able to receive financial aid.


Besides aiding seniors living independently, providing safe and affordable housing, maintaining hunger prevention centers and providing services for immigrants and refugees, Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY) also plays a strong role in helping students to succeed in learning. LSSNY enables individuals to reach their full potential through its LIFE (Lutheran Initiatives for Enrichment) service programs.


TREE-694x1024In 2006, LSSNY established The New LIFE School in the Bronx to serve students aged 8-21 years in grades 3-12. The school was established out of a need to help students with specialized learning and social/emotional needs, many of whom have felt disappointed and neglected by the educational system and society at large. This past August, The New LIFE School celebrated their first graduation ceremony. Fifteen students gathered with their families, teachers, classmates and others who made that journey possible for them.


On the cover of the bulletin for the graduation was a Aspen tree – a tree that is supported by a colony of roots. These roots allow the tree to produce new seedlings, even when the tree above had been damaged by things like forest fires. The New LIFE School, Leif Erikson Day School, and Lutheran Schools Association each provide a unique community, often unseen, for students to thrive and grow.