Amber Adds On
The Bronx Free Press- Amber Adds On
Story and photos by Gregg McQueen
Amber Charter School has opened a new location in Kingsbridge.
Located at 3120 Corlear Avenue, the school is serving 250 children grades K through 2. Amber Kingsbridge, which began classes in September, will eventually go up to fifth grade, adding one grade per year.
Principal Verónica Almedina said the school district is known for overcrowded public schools and few quality options for families.
“We hope to alleviate some of that,” she said. “We want to give people another option.”
Executive Director Vasthi Acosta said the curriculum at Amber is heavily focused on the arts, including visual arts and music.
She said that immersion in the arts helps students learn in other academic areas.
“We want to make sure that every student tastes excellence in some way,” stated Acosta. “Because once you taste that, you’re going to want to pursue that. It’s a great feeling.”
Kingsbridge becomes Amber’s second location after its East Harlem school, which serves close to 500 students.
The East Harlem school, founded in 2000 by the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans (ACDP), was the first Latino-led charter school in the state.
Last year, Amber moved into a temporary space in Washington Heights until the Kingsbridge facility was ready.
Almedina said Amber’s Kingsbridge school received 1,000 applications for 250 spots during the current academic year.
“That shows how badly families are in need of a good school, and I think it also speaks to the reputation that Amber has,” said Acosta.
All students at Amber learn Spanish beginning in kindergarten.
Spanish teacher Giselle Almonte said it is helpful for kids to begin learning another language at a young age.
“At that age, they’re like a sponge,” she said. “They can soak up anything.”
Students at Amber also learn to read music, and interpret classical pieces. Music teacher Brian Quillin said that music makes a lasting impression on young students.
“I still remember all the songs I learned as a child,” said Quillin. “When I was a regular fourth grade teacher, I tried to bring music into the classroom as much as possible.”
Board member Soledad Hiciano explained that Amber had initially sought to stay in Washington Heights, but could not find adequate space. The modern Corlear Avenue building the school now occupies offered the ideal solution, and room for growth, she said.
“We didn’t want to take space in a public school building,” she said. “We wanted to have our building, like in Harlem.”
Hiciano said the majority of students who joined the school in Washington Heights chose to remain at Amber, even though it moved to another school district.
“We are truly honored and blessed,” she remarked. “That just speaks volumes of what they found in one year with us.”