Erin Mote is the co-founder of Brooklyn LAB and serves the school in an advisory capacity. Throughout her career she has served as advisor to the Clinton Foundation, Wal-Mart, Chevron, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Erin shares how she and her husband conceived the idea of Brooklyn LAB while walking the streets in their neighborhood and wrote out their ideas on a napkin. It was on that walk that she was considering a return from consulting to a public service role so she could have an impact on her community. Their contemplative discussion led them to the same conclusion of creating a school that was accessible to all and provided opportunities where previously none existed for students.
They decided to reimagine and rethink the education and human capital model for students. Particularly focused on complex learners, learning disabilities, homeless and students that had come into contact with the criminal justice system. In the few years since its inception in 2014 the school has grown to 2 campuses with 479 students.
In 2014, the school opened and welcomed its first class of scholars, 132 6th Graders. They chose to target middle school students to have the time and prep to get them ready for highschool and if they chose to continue, college.
Brooklyn Lab has tackled the problems facing students within their community by catering the structure, curriculum and community engagement to the the needs of their community. This focus has helped return the school to its former place as the center of the community.
The structure of their day is unique in that they have extended hours beginning at 8:30 and ending at 5:30. In addition to standard curriculum the school emphasizes and focuses on varying student experiences with 1:1 tutoring and mentorship with college professors and business professionals. This philosophy sparks the creativity and engagement of the students by meeting them where they are as individuals and catering to their needs and interests.
Part of meeting the students where they are and sparking engagement is family involvement. Erin and her husband spend a great deal of time with parents, extended family, coaches and clergy. They walk the same streets with their scholars and are spotted while out shopping on the weekends. They take the time to express how much they care and appreciate their scholars.
Erin emphasizes the importance of letting her students know that they are invested in their success and it is based on a foundation of love they have for each and everyone of their students. They host monthly “coffee with the co-founders” where they are available for feedback and conversation about issues, improvements and praise. They work with the whole family to rebuild trust because in many cases, prior interactions with durable public institutions was negative and poor. This family approach is deliberate and intentional.
They believe that the greatest advocates of the school are those parents of their current 6th,7th and 8th grade students. Their annual summer picnic had over 1400 attendees. This is a glowing indication of the positive impact the school is having on, not only the students lives, but the lives of their families’ and community at large.
Erin shares that the US needs to reframe why education matters to go beyond basic requirements and towards a deeper understanding of the long term importance of individuals, society, the economy and country. Education has gone from Model T to Tesla without adapting to the changing demands. While the basics are still needed there needs to be inclusion of alternative approaches to education.
We need to reframe and adapt to current needs and anticipate future needs too. She shares that no matter where you sit on the political scale, most can agree that an urgent need is economic competitiveness. Erin believes that education is one of the greatest national security crises facing this United States and that education needs to be radically reimagined.
We, as a country, need to discover and appreciate what is possible for young people and reinvest in young people. While currently one of the most innovative countries, due in large part to Silicon Valley, we are ranked #56 on the global field when it comes to education. Without a commitment to education, the US will find themselves in a position where we are no longer the most innovative and ultimately no longer competitive on the global scale.
To achieve this it requires uncommon alliances and approaches on behalf of business, community, government; parents/ students, together demanding change. Erin feels momentum is still going forward and is hopeful that activism and movement are progressing and will continue to do so in the future. She concludes with an invite to follow her on twitter @erinmotes, visit the school and its website Brooklynlaboratoryschool.org.
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