September 29, 2015
When, in 1999, the founders of the Amber Charter School were writing proposals, they were determined to establish the school uptown, for the children of Washington Heights.
“[But] we couldn’t find a building,” laughs Soledad Hiciano.
She would remember.
Hiciano serves as Board Chair and is Executive Director of the Association of Progressive Dominicans (ACDP), the community-based organization that sponsored the original charter application.
Their search led the group instead to set up shop in East Harlem on East 106th Street. There, they have forged partnerships with El Museo del Barrio, 92 Street Y, Vanderbilt YMCA, and Harlem Hospital, among others.
“We fell in love with that community,” explains Hiciano.
Since 2000, the school has educated more than 5,000 children, with robust enrollment of a diverse student body: 58% Latino and 36% African-Americans. Eighty five percent of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch.
And the school has a proven track record.
On the state ELA and Math assessments CSD 4, 5, and 6, Amber students have received high marks, and have consistently outperformed their peers. In the last academic year, 100% of Amber’s 4th grade students scored 100% proficient in the state science tests.
From kindergarten through graduation, students receive instruction in Spanish, and are afforded special education services including counseling, speech, and access to occupational and physical therapy off campus.
“It is exciting to celebrate 15 years of educating children,” said Dr. Vasthi R. Acosta, the school’s Executive Director. “There is nothing more gratifying than ensuring that our students become lifelong learners always curious about the world and ready to make a difference.”
The school serves over 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
As it prepares to celebrate its 15th Anniversary Gala, or its Quinceañera, Amber is returning to its roots – and growing.
The School’s Board has applied for and received authorization from the State University of New York’s (SUNY) Charter Schools Institute to open a second charter school in the fall of 2016 in Washington Heights.
“Our obtaining the building that will serve as Amber’s new home uptown was not easy,” said Luis Miranda, the Manhattan Times publisher and former Board Chair of 12 years. “Without the support of institutions like Citibank and the Raza Development Fund, our dreams for our own space would not have come true.”
“It seems fitting to return to Washington Heights as we celebrate our Quinceañera,” added Hiciano.