Facing History New Tech High School’s principal calls the school a “hidden gem” in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.
But the community has taken notice of the school’s positive impact, so much that the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corp. chose Facing History New Tech to receive a special honor: one of three Old Brooklyn Founders Awards. More than a dozen students and administrators accepted the award Thursday at the nonprofit CDC’s annual meeting at the Ariel Pearl Center.
“These students have been an inspiration to me, and they have made Old Brooklyn a better place,” said OBCDC Executive Director Jeffrey Verespej as he presented the award.
Facing History New Tech High School opened in 2012 on the top floor of the Charles A. Mooney School. It’s believed to be the only school of its kind in the nation, combining a social justice and human rights curriculum developed by Facing History and Ourselveswith the project-based, integrated technology approach pioneered by the New Tech Network.
Verespej rattled off a number of reasons why Facing History deserved the award, including its nearly 93 percent graduation rate, high rate of college acceptance for graduates and having two students in a row win the annual Scenarios USA filmmaking contest.
“What I really love about Facing History New Tech students is their sense of a community beyond themselves,” he said.
Students have been an active part of the community, volunteering at places like Senior Citizen Resources and helping with neighborhood cleanup efforts, Vesperej said.
He also mentioned the high level of thinking on display every year when seniors present their capstone projects about important social justice and human rights issues.
“These students are talking about subjects that I as an adult have a hard time grappling with, and they tackle them with confidence, ease and knowledge that astounds and inspires me,” he said.
Luis Valentin is a senior at Facing History and one of the students who accepted the award. He came to the school in 10th grade after hearing others say that Facing History New Tech teachers and staff are kind, supportive and college-focused.
“We’re not just a regular high school,” he said. “We’re a high school that wants our kids to look at the future.”
Principal Marc Engoglia expressed gratitude for how the community embraced Facing History New Tech, despite some skepticism at the beginning.
“When we started, there were some locals that were nervous about a high school being in their area,” he said. “Now, they love us and want us to stay because our kids are doing the right things for the community.”
Engoglia ended the night by inviting everyone in the room to stop by the high school to see the work that students are doing.
“Our students are proud of their school and proud of Old Brooklyn,” he said.
“Our doors are always open.”