1986 – You Can Community School

“You Can empowered students to manage their own education and living conditions” Juanita Orengo-Rodriguez, director from You Can 1995-2005

In 1986 Neighborhood Women (NW) founded the You Can Community School to serve low-income teens and young adults from Brooklyn. NW had been working for over 10 years in the field of education, having successfully launched the NW College Program to serve working class women. The organization wanted to also address the needs of young single mothers and teens with difficulty succeeding at regular high schools. You Can not only offered education, but an on-site childcare program, Edu-Care, and individual plans and supervision to ensure students focused on learning the basic skills. Students had access to programs such as computer labs, environmental justice workshops, business and language classes, leadership and vocational training and World of Work. This last one helped students prepare resumes, acquire interview skills and search for jobs to enter the workforce in New York City. Counseling was a fundamental aspect of You Can, and aligned with the consciousness raising method used by NW since its founding, it helped students raise their self esteem, realize their potential and succeed. Attendance and retention rates excelled at the school, proving that students that were considered problematic at regular high schools were able to graduate from You Can. The traditional educational approach was shifted by instilling students to look at their own progress instead of comparing it to that of their piers. The You Can Community School offered Pre-GED instruction and GED classes, being ranked as the 1st highest alternative school in GED Scores from 1995 to 2005 when it closed due to budget cuts.

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