In Season 2 Episode 3, Jonathan introduces us to Mr. Angelo Garcia, Founder, and Head of School for Segue Institute of Learning in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Much more than a building where learning occurs, Segue offers services and programs, actively pursuing relationships with their scholars and families. The culture of Segue is built on civic engagement and civic duty, leading scholars by example to get engaged, do the hard work, and be citizens of change.
In the ’70s, Mr. Garcia moved to Central Falls with his family as a child. As one of the first Hispanic families to move to the area, he recalls feeling like “intruders into a space” in an “environment that didn’t recognize us”. His mother did her best to bring her children to the city where opportunities were plenty – but Mr. Garcia had to pave his own way.
I tell people that it’s really ironic that I run a charter school, that’s a full-service community school, out of a building that I myself as a child was not welcomed in… how profound.
Mr. Garcia shares his experience as one of Segue’s Founders. His platform for building a school that boasts equity for all children, regardless of color, income bracket, or neighborhood, was a target for constant attacks and attempts to dismantle progress. In the beginning, even his students were harassed by community members and city employees, “they turned on us. They stopped talking to us because we wanted to open a charter school and charter schools take money away from the traditional district”.
But they persisted.
Segue Institute for Learning is just that – an institute for learning. For children and youth, for parents and educators – for the community. Each day at Segue begins with an advisory block. Prescheduled time to check in, share experiences and seek help. Mr. Garcia believes this active pursuit to connect with students is the secret to building schools that see their learners as humans and he urges others to do the same. “We will circle up the kids and be like, ‘okay, timeout… you need to learn math but we got to deal with this situation right now.” Parent University is a program designed to support parents with anything they may need to strengthen their family unity.
This priority shift, building up our learners, their whole selves, is how Segue has found growth in their community’s mental health, physical well-being, and academic achievement – which is well proven by test scores, college admittance, and scholarships. It comes down to
If you are a school leader or a teacher, you create the space that you want your kids to thrive in. So if that’s just a classroom, then you create that space where your children can thrive where they are recognized and validated and loved.
Isn’t that what we all want? As humans, aren’t we all searching for a space where we can thrive, be recognized, and feel loved? It’s time we start working toward this reality – for all of us. It won’t always be easy and sometimes we’ll fail but, in the words of Mr. Garcia, “go home and come back better tomorrow.”
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