Liberty Partnerships Program Continues to Help Students

Liberty Partnerships Program has worked with Fordham since 1989. (Facebook)

Liberty Partnerships Program has worked with Fordham since 1989. (Facebook)

The Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) is a college access and dropout prevention program involving 46 institutions of higher education throughout the state of New York, helping middle and high school students engage more in their education. The program includes tutoring services, mentoring, socio-emotional counseling, career and college exploration activities and support for students and their families.

The program was started by the New York City Department of Education in 1988, and Fordham University has been associated with it since 1989. “At the time when it started back in 1988, the reason for it to be created was to help students that are in low-income communities get the support and resources that they need to achieve academic goals,” said Jackeysi Benitez, the site administrator for LPP at Fordham. Fordham students are able to help with the program by volunteering to be a tutor for LPP students.

Many of the students involved in the program are at risk of dropping out of school  because of factors like negative peer pressure, foster care, lack of academic income resources or truancy.

Currently, Fordham has five partnerships with middle and high schools in the surrounding Bronx area. LLP is currently offering online tutoring, homework assistance and college readiness workshops. They also organize a summer program for year round assistance.

While academic help is provided by Fordham’s students who volunteer to tutor, the program goes even further. “We provide social and emotional counseling. At Fordham, we are under the department of social work, so we are able to place some of the social work interns, the graduate interns, in our schools,” said Benitez. “They provide social emotional counseling.  They provide a great summer program for the students, where students receive classes in the morning and then enrichment activities. We do various academic resources, but we also provide social emotional pieces, as well as enrichment pieces, where we take them on trips — like museums and Broadway plays and things of that nature. We are trying to assist the student in as many ways as we can. We want to target as many of their needs.”

Recently, Benitez received an email from a Fordham student, who is a tutor for LPP, about the results of the program.
“She let me know that a parent informed her that the student is performing so much better, and she was really happy about this. I was really happy for her because there is nothing like helping someone, and you seeing the fruits of their labor. It is such a one of those moments that is like ‘Oh okay, this is why I’m doing this.’ I think it is a win-win for the students — both parties. The students getting the help and the Fordham students involved,” said Benitez.

Ally Klapak, FCRH ’22, has been tutoring students in LPP since her sophomore year. Since she is in Fordham’s five-year Graduate School of Education track, pursuing a masters in adolescent education, LPP was a perfect fit for her.

“As an aspiring teacher, all the work I do on and off campus revolves around education. Since my freshman year, I have been looking for ways to become more involved in education in the community, so when I saw the flyer for LPP my sophomore year, I eagerly signed up. I’ve stayed with this program for five semesters (and a few summers) because I have really enjoyed building connections with the students and really enjoy tutoring,” said Klapak.

Klapak works with two to three students for the year, and she meets a couple of times a week with them for a one-on-one Zoom meeting.

“Some of my favorite memories are my students straying away from their typical homework questions to ask for life advice. This shows me that they really trust and feel supported by me and that I am doing my job,” said Klapak.

Ashley Blasi, FCRH ’22, has been working with LPP for the past four years, and she has enjoyed getting to know the students. “I remember before COVID-19, we would actually get to take the students on campus and give them little tours and talk about their futures,” said Blasi. “For kids who didn’t have homework for that day, we would play kickball on Eddie’s or just sit and talk about college or friends/family.”

When the pandemic started, it was hard at first for LPP to transition to online tutoring, but there is now an established online tutoring schema. “The program is very flexible and very intuitive in terms of how to conduct tutoring. They work with you to select which subjects you’ll be focusing on, so you’ll never have to teach something that you don’t know anything about,” said Blasi.

“Last semester was really cool because I got to help one of my students apply to and decide on which colleges she wanted to attend. She actually got into her dream school (Fordham), which I was super excited about,” said Blasi.

Ashley Funes is an 11th grader who attends Bronx High School for Law and Community Service, is a student who participates in LPP.  “LPP has treated me like family, while also providing me with resources that I wouldn’t have access to anywhere else,” said Funes.

“LPP has left a positive impact on my life. Furthermore, I struggled a lot with my mental health in 9th grade and attending LPP’s after-school program helped me feel better about myself,”  said Funes

Funes stated, “the environment allowed me to do things that I didn’t have access to at home. For instance, going to the gym and receiving tutoring. Also, being around my friends,” said Funes.

Benitez continued, “Fordham University students, under the mission of Fordham, where we want to help each other out, they sign up thinking they are going to help someone with math. It goes beyond just helping someone with math or homework and all that. You are impacting someone’s lives, and you are changing the trajectory of their future by just providing this one-on-one help. It is wonderful,” said Benitez.