Simple Joys—and Abundant Thanks

This time last year, I had no idea how happy the sight of students walking into their building could make me. But a few weeks ago, when I stopped by the Partnership’s Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, I had a moment to watch over a hundred students happily bounce down the street and into their school, and it moved me almost more than I can say.

Our Lady Queen of Angels students line up outside to enter the school.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, it is those simple, everyday joys our students experience for which I am most grateful.

To get our students there, where they should be, playing with each other and learning together in school, has taken a massive, collaborative, courageous effort—a mobilization that continues every day. So while some might remember 2020 for challenges and divisions, I will remember it as a year when I saw love and collaboration on behalf of children on a scale I have never before witnessed.

Executive Director Jill Kafka, Facilities Manager Miguel Ramos, and OLQA Principal Liz Nuzzolese outside OLQA.

Partnership teachers have adopted new routines and changed instructional practices on a moment’s notice.

Our facilities team have equipped our buildings in entirely new ways, and they keep zipping between schools and even cities in our unmistakable purple van, delivering crucial supplies and solutions daily.

Parents have rolled up their sleeves, helping their students learn remotely or adapting their own schedules for in-person learning that looks very different than before.

Our staff and our leaders are tackling new challenges every day.

And our students are keeping their masks on, working hard, and making us proud.

The wider Partnership community has charged forward as well. In the midst of pandemic’s first wave, our Cleveland supporters made sure that we were able to open our first two schools there right on time. The emergency fund so many helped set up began ensuring that our families could make rent and keep food on the table during some of the direst spring days in New York. And our donors do more than fund our work; they give us all hope that even in the midst of unprecedented hardships, we can keep building bright tomorrows for our students.

Even if you are not able to enjoy this year the same kind of Thanksgiving you are used to, I hope you can join me in feeling gratified by what we celebrate: everyone’s efforts on behalf of our students in the last few months have been absolutely crucial, and they are making something extraordinary happen every day. Because individuals from every part of our Partnership community continue to step up to the sacrifices and  challenges of this time, students have been able to play and learn and grow together at each of our schools from the start of this school year.

There are so many heartbreaks that all of us will remember when we look back on 2020. But as Executive Director of Partnership Schools, I had a front row seat this year to some of the most extraordinary acts of resilience and resourcefulness I have seen. This year has definitely presented challenges; it has also been one of the greatest privileges of my professional life. And for that, I am more grateful than I can say.

Jill Kafka is Executive Director of Partnership Schools.