While working as teachers in the Bronx and Brooklyn, Jonah Canner and Becky Raik began to notice that despite all of their schools’ efforts there were a significant number of students who were not able to find consistent success in the classroom. They believed that if their students were ever going to get a fair shot they were going to need more than what the schools were able to offer. In January of 2006, after more than a year of coffee shops and cottage cheese pancakes, they founded The Fertile Grounds Project. Its mission: to provide young people with the space, tools and support they need to take ownership over their own educations and build an identity in a world where they can belong.
Jonah Canner - Founding Board Member, Educational Director
Becky Raik - Founding Board Member, Executive Director
Cary Feliciano - Director of Youth Programming
In America's 50 largest cities, 48% of the public school students do NOT graduate from high school. That's almost half of our urban students who are not being reached in the public education system.
With limited school resources, our hard-working, dedicated teachers clearly need help. But not just any kind of help. We need to rethink the educational methods we are using. We need to create new structures through which we can help our marginalized students achieve their full academic potential.
The mission of the Fertile Ground Project is to provide innovative programming in and outside of schools. Our programs offer young people the chance to challenge themselves physically, emotionally, artistically, and intellectually, to take control over their own education and build an identity in a world where they can belong.
- To create innovative, replicable educational programs within struggling schools
- To provide educational opportunities outside of school
- To create a sustainable, interdependent, community of young people who support each other as they effect change in their own lives
Fertile Grounds Project develops breakthrough educational methods and creates innovative, results-driven structures to deliver them.
Fertile Grounds Project directly addresses the structural challenges facing many marginalized youth. These are often at the heart of the subpar academic performance and incomplete schooling that ultimately perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
In three years the Fertile Grounds Project has launched three successful programs for New York City public school students. The organization has relationships with more than a dozen schools and our programs have reached more than 300 young people. All of this has been accomplished with zero full time employees and minimal funds, raised through events and individual donations.
The Hallway Project
This innovative curriculum has provided participating students with the opportunity to earn back credits towards graduation and has increased their passing rates by 20%. The Hallway Project is being replicated in five schools around New York City.
It has inspired over 200 stories of individual accomplishment. One student was arrested and spent the first four months of his senior year in Jail. During that time he would mail in work and his teacher would conference during visiting hours. He graduated on time and is now in college studying law enforcement.
In the summer of 2008, our third year, several of our former campers came back to work as counselors, the first step towards our goal of having a self-sustaining, continuous community.
During the closing activity this summer one of the campers said she was already looking forward to next year when it would be her fourth summer as a camper. For her, and many others, the experiences she has had and the lessons she has learned at Camp Kadia are now a part of her life and will stay with her forever.
The Survival Project
In the first year of close to 100 public school students completed the three-day challenge course. Students learned basic survival skills, their small group communication flourished, individual leadership emerged, and students earned credits towards graduation.