In Park Slope, Brooklyn, high school students at The John Jay Educational Campus are grappling with the decision to unite a school building divided by race, class, and opportunity, through sports. With help from student journalism nonprofit The Bell, a fiscally sponsored program at FJC, these students created a podcast called Keeping Score to tell this story to the wider public.
New York City has one of the most segregated public-school systems in the country, despite its diversity and cultural vibrancy. At times, this racial and cultural division can be expressed in a single school building. The John Jay Educational Campus houses four public high schools: Cyberarts Studio Academy, the Secondary School for Law, Millennium Brooklyn, and Park Slope Collegiate. If you visit the campus today, you might see banners rooting for the John Jay Jaguars with the slogan “We Are One” adorning the hallways. However, for more than a decade, the building was home to two sports teams: the Jayhawks, comprised of mostly Black and Latinx students from Cyberarts Studio Academy, the Secondary School for Law, and Park Slope Collegiate; and the Phoenixes, made up of predominantly White and Asian Millennium Brooklyn students.
Millennium Brooklyn moved into the John Jay Educational Campus in 2011, but with rivaling sports teams and each school located on a different floor, students found it difficult to connect with peers. A decade later, after years of students yearning to unite their divided building, school administrators decided to merge the two sports teams into one: the John Jay Jaguars. The Bell caught wind of the merger as it was happening and knew this story had to be told.
The Bell teamed up with WNYC Studios to help students from the John Jay Educational Campus report on the merger as it played out on the girls’ volleyball court. Keeping Score provided students with a platform to discuss how their high school experience fits into the broader picture of race and class in America. Mariah Morgan, a junior at Park Slope Collegiate who helped advocate for and report on the merger says, “I want this to work, I really do, because it has the potential to be incredibly anti-racist.”
The Bell hopes to follow up with John Jay students on how Year 2 of the merger continues to influence a dialogue amongst the campus community.
The Bell has been a participant in FJC’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program since 2018. Co-founder Taylor McGraw says working with FJC gives him “peace of mind knowing that we have a strong backbone.” Having FJC as a partner who can receive tax-exempt grants and manage payment mechanics allows The Bell to focus on its mission: equipping students with the skills, connections, know-how, and savvy needed in journalism.
The Bell seeks to bridge the gap between students from underrepresented backgrounds and journalism opportunities in NYC. The organization currently offers internships to 30 NYC public high school students a year, and co-founder Taylor McGraw aspires to become the best audio journalism training program in the world. With the launch of a NYC youth journalism coalition in the works, The Bell hopes to connect more high school students with a cross-sector group of media professionals, outlets, and schools. The Bell encourages anyone with interest or experience in journalism, media, education, and equal opportunities for young people, to reach out for more ways to help.
Special thanks to Natalie Cimino, FJC Program Assistant, for writing this story.