Innovative School Restores Education and the New York Harbor
Raised on a farm in Virginia, Murray Fisher developed a deep love for nature. Animals and the outdoors fascinated him and he knew early that he would involve nature into his career.
The son of a former Peace Corp volunteer, Fisher was born in the country his father volunteered in, Columbia. Surrounded by people who were different from him, the power to empathize was instilled in him from infancy.
"My parents taught me that life is richer when you are around people who are different than you," Fisher remembers. "I had a rich childhood because I was surrounded by all walks of life."
As he got older, Fisher found his worldview some times at odds with society's reality. He wanted multiculturalism to thrive and became frustrated when it wasn't embraced. He investigated race relations and understood the only way to bridge the racial divide was education.
"The public education system is the most important element to make sure everyone, no matter their skin color or socio-economic background, can have every opportunity that I had," he says.
Before graduating from Vanderbilt University, he read John Cronin and Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s The Riverkeeper. It is a story of environmental activists battling polluters, and it inspired Fisher so much that he traveled to New York and begged for a job within the Hudson Riverkeeper, an organization founded to protect the Hudson River. Eventually, he convinced the team to hire him through AmeriCorps, and the experience was life changing for Fisher.
"I was giving talks about the Hudson River; I was giving presentations to schools; I was meeting with politicians and investigating pollution complaints; I was working with scientists on the fisheries in the river," recalls Fisher. "Through all of these things, I realized that this should be a school curriculum."
At 23-years old, starting a school didn't seem viable so he focused on replicating the Hudson Riverkeeper's success and traveled to build 60 affiliate programs throughout the world in three short years. He helped each location form a board, identify donors and target polluters. Fisher watched how communities developed using their respective water body as a foundation to learning.
Every time he returned home to New York City, he was troubled that most inhabitants didn't share the same connection to the Hudson River that the communities he worked for did. He wanted people to value the river's history, which is the very reason the city exists in the first place, and protect it.
In 2002, he wrote a proposal for an environmental school, which could connect the 1.1 million public schools students in New York City with the water that surrounded them. He presented his idea to his best friend's uncle, Richard Kahan. In addition to heading the Empire State Development Corporation and developing Battery Park City, Kahan had started two small public schools through the Urban Assembly, an organization he founded.
"Meeting with Richard Kahan was the most important meeting I ever had," says Fisher. "He made my 27-year old idea into a reality ... he liked the concept and brought the political muscle and savvy to navigate bureaucracy and make the school possible."
Soon after, Fisher recruited Nate Dudley to become the founding principal of the Harbor School and lead it on a daily basis. Working together, the three men crafted and presented a formal proposal to New Visions for Public School, the Department of Education and several large funders, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At the same time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Department of Education Chancellor, Joel Klein, were replacing big, underperforming public schools with smaller schools and approved Fisher's proposal.
In the Fall of 2003, The Urban Assembly's New York Harbor School opened its doors in Brooklyn's old Bushwick High School. Although its first location wasn't near water, it didn't stop the school from its mission. Beyond the school's state-approved traditional curriculum, the Harbor School requires all freshmen to take an Introduction to the New York Harbor class. One day out of every 10, students travel to various water sites throughout New York City and learn six different fields of study: aquaculture, marine systems technology (boat mechanics), marine biology research, ocean engineering, scientific diving and vessel operations (learning to drive a boat that holds 6 or more individuals). At the end of their freshman year, students choose one of the six fields to pursue for the remainder of their high school career.
In 2007, the New York Harbor School graduated its first class with a graduation rate that tripled the Bushwick High School it replaced. Fisher focused on moving the Harbor School to New York City's historic Governor's Island, ensuring students were surrounded by the harbor they studied. After years of working alongside city officials and redevelopment organizations, Fisher got approval to move his school to Governor's Island in the center of New York Harbor. In Fall 2010, the Harbor School proudly opened its doors to its state-of-the-art facility, which was converted from an abandoned Navy hospital.
Murray and his team continue to evolve the school's curriculum and mission to empower all Harbor School graduates with a diploma, acceptance to a four-year college and a technical credential in their chosen field. Understanding college isn't always a financial option. The Harbor School provides all graduates with professional and technical skills to achieve a career in the third largest port in the world.
"When I get on the ferry from Pier 17 to Governor's Island, I pass at least six passenger vessels," says Fisher. "There is a 50 percent chance a Harbor School graduate is working as a captain or a deckhand on one of those vessels."
The school prepares students to be stewards of New York Harbor and is organizing an ambitious restoration project. Their large-scale initiative aims to restore the once-thriving estuary with one billion live, adult oysters over the next 20 years. Though presently non-existent, oyster reefs used to surround New York City and provide natural water filtration and wave attenuation for a vibrant fishery.
"It's like my experience at Riverkeeper, young people should be engaged in real, productive work," says Fisher. "They will feel more valuable becoming contributing members of society and thus, given that responsibility and value, they will become better learners."
W. Marc Ozburn, Jr. is founder and CEO of TheDoGooder.com, an online fundraising network for schools and nonprofits. TheDoGooder modernizes school fundraising by infusing social entrepreneurial and networking principles so schools/nonprofits can raise funds completely hands free throughout the year. Prior to launching TheDoGooder, Ozburn was an environmental consultant focusing on waste reduction strategies. In addition, he helped launch MY ECO, a sustainable consumer products company. Ozburn's passion for education began when he developed and implemented the School Reuse Challenges to create environmental consciousness with children through competition. He resides in New York City.
You can read more DoGooder Spotlights and fundraise for your school or nonprofit at TheDoGooder.com.
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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