Building strong learners and community.

Dr. Sciarretta hosts Safe Passage’s Senior Director of Education Patricia Barneond on his podcast “The Superintendent’s Hangout.” Dr Sciarretta has visited Safe Passage and is the Superintendent of Albert Einstein Academies in California. 

To listen to the episode in full you can find the podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, TuneIn Radio, Audible, and Apple. Here are a few excerpts from the episode.

Patty: I started as a curriculum designer for Safe Passage when we were rethinking our school program.

I really fell in love with what Safe Passage does. I’ve been here for 8 years now and now I am the senior director of education at Safe Passage. I’m really happy to be here and dedicate my life to these kids.

Dr. Sciarretta: What role do parents play in the Safe Passage learning community?

Patty: They are really a very key element here. We focus on kids, but it’s critical to have a parent that supports and believes that they can do better; they’re here when they need to be involved.

Dr. Sciarretta: How does the culture within the staff make sure the students are seen in an empowering way, especially foreign volunteers who may come with a “savior complex.” How is that built and fostered?

Patty: When we started 8 years ago changing the methodology and learning approach for the kids, we started with the culture. By addressing the social and emotional needs of the kids, but also building a strong community. We have smaller groups called ‘crew’ where kids meet for 30 minutes every morning and afternoon and share stories, develop social tools, and strengthen the community. Teachers are here to support them to grow, they’re not coming in and “saving kids.” It’s empowering the kids so they can learn and lead their own learning process. 

Volunteers are given a job, taking advantage of their knowledge of English, they are here to work with the kids, not to save the kids, or paint a wall. Teachers bring their heart and soul, it’s not just their professional work.

Dr. Sciarretta: What is the greatest challenge Safe Passage has faced?

Patty: People believing that even though we are working with kids at risk we are able to deliver quality education and prepare them to be successful in life. Sometimes people will say ‘Oh it’s like a public school, or ‘it’s low quality education,’ and show people that what we do is a high-quality education for kids. To make people see that what we are doing is changing people’s lives. Having a positive result.

Dr. Sciarretta: What is your greatest success in your time at Safe Passage?

Patty: This year. Looking at the first group of students graduating from high school. And having those high schools recognize that our students are different, and they want to get more of our students into their schools. It’s a great measure of success. It doesn’t matter any more where they are coming from, often kids from this area can be discriminated against because of the reputation.

Dr. Sciarretta: What’s one of the most misunderstood things about your students?

Patty: These kids are smart, resilient, and really have a big heart.