“For far too long, the debate in education focused on the supposed deficiencies of the students who walk through the doors, instead of putting the focus where it belongs—on the schools. Schools need to know what their students need to be successful, and then create the environment that enables their success.”

–Jeff Raikes

On October 16, 2017, we held our first-ever fundraiser, the Eskolta Change-Makers Cocktail Reception, celebrating the work of five phenomenal change makers making an impact on New York City education. With over 150 attendees, the sold-out event brought together donors, media, nonprofits, and educators from around the city—ranging from Google to Goldmans Sachs, from Beam Center to Bronx Haven.

The event, held at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan, honored five people who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to enacting positive change in education: Tanell Pendleton, an English teacher who has worked at Bronx Haven High School for eight years, and Michael Wolach, founding teacher and instructional coach at Jill Chaifetz Transfer School, both of whom have worked with Eskolta on multi-year projects on topics ranging from developing students’ academic mindsets to implementing outcomes-based grading; Cristal Cruz, a graduate of Brooklyn Frontiers High School, who, after facing significant challenges during school, graduated as salutatorian, enrolled in college, and is now working at Good Shepherd Service to support students in the same way she was supported; and Jeff and Tricia Raikes, co-founders of the Raikes Foundation and part of the founding team of Microsoft, who have become champions of school improvement by establishing national initiatives such as the Mindset Scholars Network and the Student Agency Improvement Community.

When Tanell took the stage, she highlighted the importance of caring for students as individuals. “Over the years, while working in transfer schools, I have learned that our students need noble teachers, teachers who are willing to see them as precious cargo and work to find new and innovative ways to inspire and activate their learning.” She told the audience, “Every day, I work to embody the idea that education promotes equality and lifts people out of poverty. It is an idea that is wholeheartedly embedded into my pedagogy. As educators…we need to help our students rediscover their love for learning and critical thinking.”

The event honored these individuals and recognized the hard work that goes into improving practices in schools and classrooms—work that is often fraught with challenges yet not always acknowledged. Lucinda Mendez, Director of Transfer Schools at New Visions for Public Schools presented two of the awards and echoed this sentiment in her response to the event: “It was truly great to reconnect with so many members of the transfer school community and celebrate the people and the work. It was a really beautiful evening.”

This event was made possible thanks to our generous donors:

  • Ariel Amdur
  • Blue Angel Wines
  • Brooklyn Brewery
  • Gretchen Wiker
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
  • Raikes Foundation
  • Rick and Nurit Amdur
  • The Afshar Family
  • The Rothman Family