March 16, 2023
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My son Mason has been enrolled at Ascend Public Charter Schools since his first day as a kindergarten student. Now, he’s a sixth-grader at Canarsie Ascend Middle School, and he’s grown and changed a lot during that time. While he goes through growth and changes, Ascend always encourages him to be his true self.
When I was looking for a school for Mason, I knew that I wanted him to have an education like the one that I had as a child in Haiti. I grew up in a community that embodied the mantra: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Everyone worked together and looked after each other. I attended Catholic schools for girls from kindergarten through the 12th grade, and I wanted a K- 12th grade experience for Mason.
But I also wanted my son to experience something different than I did in school. I wanted him to attend a school that shared my standards for raising my child and would support him being himself. When I was growing up, at my school, students were not encouraged to express themselves. Now, at home, I’m raising my son to be able to speak up, ask questions, and find his voice as a young man.
When I visited Ascend for the first time, the first thing that struck me was how clean and appealing the school was. It was a big, beautiful, airy building that invited sunlight. I saw many areas where children could learn and play. I started talking to everybody whom I could find: teachers, parents, and even the security guard. They all told me that it would be a great place for my son.
The teachers at Ascend are encouraging Mason to explore his interests. Right now, he’s really excited about math. Teachers know how to strike the right balance between affording the kids room to be themselves and creating structure. Consequences are the last resort when something goes wrong. Instead, the teachers talk to the kids about learning from their experiences and preventing these mistakes from happening in the future.
I also wanted Mason to be in a setting where he feels comfortable with peers and teachers who come from a similar background. I’m raising a Black son, and I know how important it is for him to see himself reflected in the people whom he sees every day at school. At Ascend, the majority of teachers are from the same background as my son and me, and that makes a big difference.
Just like the village that raised me, the teachers and staff at Ascend look after Mason. They take their time not simply to understand his scholastic needs, but also his culture and identity. One of his teachers observed that he typically brings Haitian rice to school for lunch. One day, he didn’t have his Haitian rice, and his teacher called me to make sure that everything was okay.
As a parent, I know that the Ascend staff is there for me. I have the phone number of every single teacher at the school. The teachers are very hands-on. They always reach out to me if there’s something going on. Even the security guard at the school contacts me on days that Mason walks to school by himself.
My sister has a child who is ready for kindergarten. I told her, “Don’t even look at another school. Just apply to Ascend.” It is a community similar to the one that we grew up in. It is helping us to raise our children while it gives them room to grow and be themselves.