Sarah Reyes often struggled to focus in school because her classes were just too big. “There were too many people,” said Reyes, a Baldwin senior who hopes to become a nurse. Lately, however, she has been in smaller classes, thanks to a program offered by the Baldwin district — and her work and grades have improved.
Baldwin has teamed up with the Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services to provide students like Reyes the chance to fulfill state graduation requirements while earning career and technical education credits in three fields — barbery, medical administrative assistant and police science. And on Oct. 2, the district forged another partnership —with the Simon Youth Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Simon Property Group, owner of the Roosevelt Field Mall, which will give students career opportunities and scholarships.
The partnership with Simon is the first of its kind in New York, and was the result of years-long talks between the nonprofit and the school district. “There are a lot of adults in this community who believe in you, and have created these resources for you,” Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin School District, told students at an Oct. 2 ceremony. “It took a little bit of a leap of faith to believe we could do this together.”
Classes are held at the former Shubert Elementary School, which was closed in 2012 and has been renamed Baldwin High School at Shubert. Forty-eight students are enrolled at the school. “There aren’t a lot of places that would put this amount of energy, this amount of thought and this amount of creativity for a group of 48 students,” Camhi said. “But this community will stand behind you.”
The Simon Youth Foundation has partnered with other school districts across the country, and typically sets up academies inside its malls. “We learned that what some of the communities want, and need, from us . . . is to look a little bit beyond that model,” said J. Michael Durnil, president and CEO of the Simon Youth Foundation.
Many of the students in Simon-sponsored academies were at risk of dropping out of traditional schools, Durnil said. Since it started in 1998, the Simon Youth Foundation has awarded more than $17 million in scholarships and helped some 17,000 students to graduate.
Durnil said that one of the career paths available to students is a job in security at a company that works at one of Simon’s malls or other sites. Patrick Crea, the Shubert principal, said he was skeptical of the partnership at first, but was quickly convinced that it would be good for students.
“Every single conversation we’ve ever had has been student-centered,” Crea said. “It’s always, what can we do for the students?”
At the school, classrooms have been renovated to accommodate lessons in the three fields offered by Baldwin, including a working barbershop run by the students. Students practice on dummies with heads of hair, but later in the school year the shop will be open to the public so students can practice their skills on people.
Judith Hynes, executive manager of in-district programs at Nassau BOCES, said she was impressed with the rooms at Shubert. “They transformed those four rooms into really viable, beautiful, state-of-the-art spaces,” Hynes said. She also said that Camhi was at the forefront of thinking about how to make sure all students receive an education.
“The Baldwin district, especially under Dr. Camhi’s leadership, they have a vision of providing opportunities for all students,” Hynes said. “That’s our job at BOCES, to support these districts in that quest.”
BOCES provides the teachers at Shubert.