FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Walkabout Ed Foundation Partners with Ossining School District to Create Ossining Walkabout High School
Ossining, New York. The Walkabout Education Foundation has received a $215,000 grant to partner with the Ossining School District to create an innovative new high school that will incorporate project-based learning, wilderness expeditions, internships and service learning projects.
The school is scheduled to launch in 2018 and will accommodate roughly 240 students in all four grades when it is fully scaled-up. The district and the Westchester-based Walkabout Education Foundation – which advocates for experiential learning programs – will seek input on developing the new school at community events and forums in the coming months. Ossining High School will offer an elective course next year for sophomores, juniors and seniors who want to help design the curriculum.
“Translating the Walkabout educational philosophy into an innovative, responsive and environmentally responsible local school is an exciting challenge,” said Ben Wild, executive director of the Walkabout Foundation.
“Through initiatives like the Hudson Pride experiential learning project and Ossining’s many individualized learning experiences, the district has worked hard to promote innovative forms of education. We will continue this legacy with the successful launch of a Walkabout-inspired school in Ossining,” he added.
Mr. Wild founded the Walkabout Education Foundation in 2013 to continue the work of the Walkabout Program, a one-year alternative education program run for 37 years by Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The program gave high school students the opportunity to develop into resilient, self-reliant young adults with the critical-thinking skills they need to thrive in academic and career settings. The program attracted both at-risk youth and gifted and talented students. It shut down in 2014 after a number of school districts cut funding from their budgets due to financial constraints.
The Walkabout Education Foundation has worked with Brian Alm, Ossining’s director of secondary teaching and learning, for the past year to create the partnership.
The design funding is from the NewSchools Venture Fund, a national nonprofit that finds, funds and supports promising and innovative education entrepreneurs, teams of educators and education leaders that are seeking to transform education. The fund announced this week that its NewSchools Invent initiative is
investing a total of $5.6 million for 29 projects around the country, including the planned Walkabout School in Ossining.
Ossining Schools Superintendent Raymond Sanchez said he witnessed the transformative effects the Walkabout Program had on local students. Over the years, 135 Ossining students attended Walkabout, and many have returned to support the community as teachers, social workers and school board members.
“Our district shares the Walkabout team’s commitment to progressive education. We are confident that Walkabout will be an innovative and organic extension of our district’s offerings,” the superintendent said. “Bringing Walkabout to Ossining will mean that we can expand its reach to more students at more grade levels.”
A recent survey of the Ossining graduates of the Walkabout Program found that 98 percent went on to college and alumni attended graduate school at a rate of more than three times the national average, said Mr. Wild, a 1994 graduate of the program. Ninety-five percent of the alumni credit Walkabout with making them the people they are today, he said.
Two community members and two alumna of the Walkabout Program – OHS teacher Christina Occhiogrossi and Margaret Cioffi, the foundation’s director of curriculum and teaching – will teach the elective course next year. Students will conduct research and submit proposals to the superintendent.
The Walkabout Foundation and the other organizations that received grants are committed to launching a new, innovative school or instructional model designed to meet all students where they are, help them succeed and inspire them to create a brighter future for everyone. In addition to startup funding, NewSchools will provide management assistance and bring together members of the 29 projects to share best practices and learn from one another. The Walkabout Education Foundation will apply for additional funding to help launch the school.
“Too many of today’s schools were built for a different time and purpose,” said Scott Benson, managing partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. “We believe schools can be reimagined to better prepare young people for the future. That’s why NewSchools Invent is proud to invest in these teams of educators who are thinking boldly and creating new opportunities to set students up for success, regardless of where they’re from.”
Walkabout Education Foundation, Executive Director
Southern Westchester BOCES Office of Public Information
Phone: 914-922-3430 (work); 518-588-9023 (cell)
About the Walkabout Education Foundation
The Walkabout Education Foundation is reinventing the American high school by creating learning environments where all students—regardless of background—develop the skills, direction, and confidence to be successful in college, career and community. Walkabout’s unique pedagogical approach prepares high school students with the practical skills and transferable knowledge to lead active, purposeful and community-centered lives. Formed in 2013 as an independent non-profit school-starting organization, WEF continues the work of the Walkabout Program, a highly successful experiential education program for high school students. Over four decades, the Walkabout Program helped disengaged students find meaningful engagement in school and life, which resulted in Walkabout students attending graduate school at three times the rate of the national average. The U.S. Department of Education named The Walkabout Program one of the top 40 experiential education programs in the country.
About the Ossining Union Free School District
The Ossining Union Free School District in northern Westchester County serves about 5,000 students from Ossining and Briarcliff Manor in six schools. Ossining sets high standards for students, embraces diversity and believes all children can learn and become informed and responsible citizens. The district implemented a full-day pre-kindergarten program in September 2014. It offers Spanish/English dual-language classes from students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Students in Ossining High School’s prestigious Science Research Program routinely receive national and international awards. The district has strong partnerships with community organizations, including First Steps early literacy program for children from birth to 4.
About the NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that finds, funds and supports promising and innovative education entrepreneurs, teams of educators and education leaders. We help them accomplish their missions to achieve outstanding results for the schools, students and educators they serve. We are committed to helping students graduate high school prepared and inspired to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans. Through our investing, management assistance, network building and thought leadership, NewSchools helps to reimagine K-12 education.
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Photo: Members of the Walkabout Education Foundation, Ossining School District and
Ossining High School faculty work together to plan the OHS elective class and Walkabout School.