First new alternative school to open in seven years

For the first time in seven years, a new district school in the borough was approved unanimously by New York’s Panel of Educational Policy and is set to open in September.

The Walkabout program, a real world, hands-on program, will begin this fall at the Mott Haven Educational Campus located at 730 W. Grand Concourse.

The push for the creation or rather, re-creation of the Walkabout program came from a former student, Ben Wild.

Wild was once like most high schoolers, full of potential, but was disengaged by the time he reached high school. According to a Gallup student poll, only four out of 10 high school seniors are engaged in their studies.

Wild then attended this alternative Walkabout program in Yorktown Heights and became another of its many success stories.

During his time in the program, he worked as an intern at the American Suicide Prevention Project where he gained confidence and ability to work in a real life setting.

He went on to start multiple businesses and later become a part-time teacher.

Seeing the true value of this program, Wild and his team of community collaborators have spent the last two years working with Bronx communities and elected officials to make the program a reality in the borough.

“Kids in the Bronx should have the same opportunities. In such a community-driven borough as the Bronx, Walkabout is perfectly suitable,” Wild said.

Even though the original Walkabout programs were closed in 2014, statistics behind it prove it to be an applicable source for students and their futures.

According to the school’s informational brochure, 89 percent of Walkabout students attend college and 39 percent attend graduate school.

The program revolves around five challenge areas for students to navigate: applied academics, internship, service learning, wilderness and presentation.

Wild said the new Walkabout program at the Mott Haven High School will start with 60 ninth graders and will add a freshman class the next three years.

“This is an important program for all high school students,” Wild said. “This form of education should be available to everyone.”

To Wild, the disengagement of students from their learning is an epidemic that is happening across the country.

He made the analogy that Walkabout is like a curb cut that makes it easier to reach the sidewalk; it makes things simple to access.

At the moment, the Walkabout program is currently in the running for the ‘Imagine NYC Schools’ competition.

For more information on the Walkabout program’s mission and philosophy, please visit www.walkabout.org

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