Bank Street for Children

2012 School for Children Alumni Panel: Bank Street and Beyond

Posted by Katie Peshut on March 15, 2012

On February 16. a lively, thoughtful, and often moving Alumni Panel discussion was provided by 17 School for Children (SFC) alums, from classes ranging from ’79 to ’11, before an audience of current and prospective parents, faculty and staff, panelists’ parents (and some panelists’ children), SFC students, and other SFC alums. A half dozen alums were from ’58 and ’59, some of whom flew in from Washington DC and Michigan.

Alexis S. Wright, Dean of Children’s Programs, asked the panelists questions about how Bank Street prepared them for their future education and their professional experiences; and how the school’s emphasis on diversity, social justice, community engagement, and acquiring a wider world view influenced their lives.  

Here are some of the responses:

Learning to Love Learning
One alumna said Bank Street gave her the desire to learn, explore, and always to follow her interests. So while she works in investment banking, she happily continues with her passion for art.  

Learning to appreciate the value of learning was the most important thing to another alumna. Raised by a single mother from Haiti, learning and books were not a large part of her family background. At Bank Street, all that changed. She is now getting her masters in the Graduate School, and is an SFC 7/8s assistant teacher.

A teacher said that Bank Street gave everyone the ability to question, the desire to learn more, and a great curiosity about other people.

The message he got, said an alumnus, was: Go experience the World!

Empowerment and Social Justice
A documentary film editor said the nurturing at Bank Street gave her the self-assurance to succeed. A second-grade special education teacher learned to advocate for herself and to encourage others to do the same. A forensic biologist felt she was given the power to make changes at every stage of her life, and to integrate learning with social justice. A high school senior said Bank Street gave him the mindset to try to effect change in his community, and to work with others to overcome injustice.

Bank Street was his most important and exceptional educational environment, said an alumnus, because it embraced learning diversity as well as ethnic, racial, and socio-economic diversity. A self-described late bloomer, he did not do well on the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) test most schools require three-year-olds to take. Bank Street did not require the test. He is now finishing his PhD at Columbia University.

A college sophomore related how important Bank Street’s Kids of Color (KOC) group was for her. Diversity, she said, was integral to the school, and people’s socio-cultural differences were looked at, shared, and celebrated. Another alumna noted that she was encouraged to embrace her own culture, and how positive that was for her.

A real estate developer said he only realized how completely Bank Street had allowed him to express his Latino identity when his doing so was discouraged in high school and college.

What she took away from Bank Street, said an alumna, was the value it placed on every individual, and its emphasis on empathy and compassion, and the importance of diversity and of reaching out to others.

An alumnus discussed the impact on him and his classmates of fellow SFC student David Walsh, who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. They took away important lessons from being around a kid like him, he said. After David died in 2004, he helped fundraise for the David Walsh Endowment Fund at Bank Street, which provides resources to SFC teachers of children with physical needs, and scholarships for those children.