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Bed-Stuy Campus Director Hopes to 'Reintroduce' College to Community

By Paul DeBenedetto | December 17, 2013 10:49am
 The College of New Rochelle has been around for 30 years, but Veronie Williams said many don't know it.
Reintroducing the College of New Rochelle
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — When Veronie Lawrence Wright took over as the new campus director at the College of New Rochelle's Bed-Stuy campus, she was excited to become a part of the neighborhood's rich history.

But after going out into the neighborhood and meeting people, she saw there was a problem— many didn't know the 30-year-old college was even in Bed-Stuy. 

"I was totally surprised," Lawrence Wright said. "I've spoken to people who have lived here for years, who had no idea there was a school."

Now Lawrence, who took on her new role Aug. 1, is embarking on a new mission — "reintroducing" the school to central Brooklyn.

"My goal is connecting with the community," Lawrence Wright said.

New Rochelle's Brooklyn campus, known as the School of New Resources, is what Lawrence Wright calls a "second chance." It's designed to provide an education and support system for the low-income, formerly incarcerated, homeless and substance-dependent, and offers a bachelor's degree program.

But despite a Census-estimated 43,000 people living in poverty in Bed-Stuy and even larger populations of poverty in neighboring communities like Bushwick, East New York and Brownsville, many are still unaware of the services the school offers, Lawrence Wright said.

Much of the problem has to do with how the school has been run in the past — up until about two years ago there wasn't even a sign on the outside of Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St., where the school is located, Lawrence Wright said.

In order to get the name out there, Lawrence Wright said she's been using her position at the school to become more active in the community and reach out to local organizations like Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, who have longstanding ties with residents.

"Visibility goes a long way," Lawrence Wright said. "Once you change the face of the college, everything will fall into place."

As part of its curriculum, the school offers programs that benefit disenfranchised students. One of those programs is called "Prior Learning," and focuses on using the student's real-life experiences towards college credit.

If, for example, a student was formerly incarcerated, he or she may be able to use that experience for credit, rather than take a course entitled "Crime and Deviance."

Each course also includes a program called a "Life Arts Project" where students use part of their own life to work on a paper or project related to the class they're in.

The idea is to make sure each student is helped in a comprehensive way, Lawrence Wright said.

"I want to make sure we're not only educating you in the classroom, but supporting you outside the classroom," Lawrence Wright said. "When a student walks through the door I think, 'how can we treat the student holistically?'"

Lawrence Wright, who has master's degrees from John Jay and Baruch colleges, and a doctorate in education and leadership from Delaware State University, said connecting to the community would be difficult, but it's a challenge that she was ready to work toward.

"I'm excited for the changes that can take place, not just for the campus but for the community," Lawrence Wright said. "I know it's not going to happen overnight, but I'm willing to put the work in."