Education: Harlem Middle School Raises Money for Community-based non-profits

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On Wednesday about thirty middle school from St. Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem trekked to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to visit Refoundry, an innovative new non-profit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings, and incubates participants into their own businesses.

The students went in order to reconnect with the Refoundry participants who came to visit their school several weeks before, and to see the drill press and band saw they donated to Refoundry.

Each month students from St. Hope select an organization through which to learn about social, environmental and others issues that affect their community, as well as how to work towards solutions. As part of their engagement they raise money to help support these organizations’ work.

At Refoundry students split up by grade to visit different parts of Refoudry’s workshop, where participants shared about the pieces they make, how Refoundry is helping them achieve their goals, and the sometimes hard life lessons they’ve learned.

Eugene Manigo, 64, spoke to the students about the mistakes he made as a young man that led to thirty years in prison. “I did terrible things to myself, and to other people,” Mr. Manigo told his rapt audience, “because I didn’t think there was another path for me. But I was wrong. Find inside yourself the thing you want to be – a nurse, a carpenter, a teacher – and work towards that goal. If you’re true to yourself, you can be whatever you set your mind to be.”

Participant James Eleby, Jr., 47, shared a favorite saying with the students: “People who judge you don’t matter, and people who matter don’t judge you.”

The students moved into an open area of the workshop where tables and chairs were set and where they received a surprise: The Shake Shack on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn had brought lunch for entire group.

After eating the students participated in Refoundry’s Hand-in-Hand Project (see attached document). Participants painted each student’s hand and “printed” them on pieces of recycled wood. The students donated their handprints to a community-wide public art project Refoundry is organizing, but got to take home a smaller piece of recycled wood that they could decorate with their fingerprint.

Stephanie Fernandez, a teacher at St. Hope that advises the students on organizations to select and on the students’ fundraising efforts, said the trip was a great experience. “We look forward to coming back to visit Refoundry next year.”

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