Hudson Scholars: Expanding Community Beyond the Hilltop

Hackley Review Winter 2017-18: By David Sykes, Upper School Teacher:  While Hackley Modern Languages students venture forth from the Hilltop to work with diverse communities in Westchester, the Hudson Scholars program enacts a similar community partnership right here at Hackley. Created in 2016, Hudson Scholars completed a successful second season in Summer 2017.

Hudson Scholars is a dynamic four-week summer academic enrichment program for low-income middle school students from our local communities of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. It brings together Hackley teachers, Upper School volunteers, and the incredible Scholars for a meaningful and valuable experience. Funded in part by restricted gifts from members of the Hackley community, the program includes challeng­ing and engaging coursework in English, math, science, social studies, drama, art, and PE. In addition, the program emphasizes leadership skills while promoting values such as hard work, integrity, and community through a thoughtfully designed character education curriculum.

Each summer the program seeks to provide the approximately 16 Scholars with a meaningful, academic, enriching, and fun four-week experience. The opportunity helps prevent summer learning loss, inspires creativity and curiosity in the class­room, fosters a culture of hard work and excellence, and in­stills values such of confidence, integrity, empathy, and resil­ience. At the same time, the program creates a close-knit and supportive community to which the Scholars and mentors feel closely connected. These four weeks set provide partici­pating Scholars a transformational experience that supports success in middle school and beyond. During the academic year, the Hudson Scholars program provides weekly tutoring sessions and monthly Saturday programming in an effort to provide ongoing academic support as well as to continue to strengthen the relationships and sense of community.
In addition to the Hudson Scholars core curriculum, high­lights from the Summer 2017 session included an ice cream social with the families, a technology day (coding, 3D printing, and geocaching), a trip to NYC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a cookout for the families, and an overnight camp-out for the Scholars on Hackley’s campus.

Most exciting, though, is the incredible relationships that develop between the Scholars and the Hackley Upper School mentors. Over the past two summers, over forty Hackley Upper School students (including some recent alumni), volunteered their time to help with the summer program and even more have volunteered to be involved during the school year. The way in which the Scholars look up to the mentors, who become role models to them, is quite special. The Hackley students demonstrate love for school and excitement about learning. They share a wide variety of interests and passions.

Most significant, they model the values of kindness and respect prized at Hackley.

The Hackley mentors invite the Scholars into the ethos of “Enter here to be and find a friend,” and in doing so, they discover that the relationship works both ways. Seeing the joy and discovery through the younger Scholars eyes, the Hackley volunteers find their own experience vastly expanded through the relationships that form with the Scholars. In being “a friend” themselves, they also “find a friend."

David Sykes teaches History in the Upper School and is the founder and director of the Hudson Scholars program.