NEW YORK – On March 15, 2021, NYU McSilver submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions about “Step-Up,” our youth development and mental health support program serving New York City Department of Education schools. For over 12 years, Step-Up has helped transform the lives of at least 800 students, with a graduation rate of 97 percent.
The program is led by co-directors Kassia Ringell and H. Christian Villatoro. It is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation and embedded within two New York City high schools located in East Harlem and the Bronx.
Testimony included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of high school students, and how Step-Up addresses the challenges young people face:
The Step-Up program has observed first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the environmental, academic, social and emotional challenges school-aged children across the City face. In November 2020, a survey administered to Step-Up participants found that these students struggled with stress derived from a myriad of sources, including from issues related to device access, fears for their future, and anxiety about college and anticipated job/financial struggles. The continuity of the Step-Up program throughout the pandemic has played an important role in helping students navigate these complex challenges.