UASEM in the News

Learning Career Skills in High School

By Leslie Brody, May 25, 2015
The Wall Street Journal

As four New York City ninth-graders arranged soil, pebbles, plastic bags and tongue depressors in a clear box, they hoped their model levy would work better than the ones that failed New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

They watched with suspense one morning last week as water seeped through the dirt, and then celebrated when the levy seemed to block its path. Their teacher, Salvatore Puglisi, was cautious. “Come back in five minutes,” he said, “and see what happens.”  Unfortunately, the water broke through.

Studying disaster prevention and recovery might seem like a niche theme for a new high school. But the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in lower Manhattan reflects a growing brand of “career and technical” education, which aims to marry academic rigor with practical know-how, leading to middle-class jobs.

New York City’s expanding CTE roster has 51 dedicated public high schools, including 13 launched in the past two school years. They try to use training in specific professions, such as television production and graphic design, as a hook to excite students about learning so they pursue college—and equip the students with marketable skills if they don’t.

Supporters say CTE today is far more demanding than vocational tracks a generation ago, which were often seen as dumping grounds for students who couldn’t handle college-preparatory courses.

Phil Weinberg, a deputy chancellor at the New York City Department of Education, cites the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan to illustrate the changing emphasis. It was launched almost a century ago to prepare immigrants to work as seamstresses. Now it requires applicants to submit art or marketing plans and has a 92% graduation rate that far exceeds the city’s 68% rate, based on the city’s data.

These career-oriented schools focus on “the skills necessary to be a great thinker, a great citizen, a great student,” Mr. Weinberg said. “They are not vocational programs in any way, shape or form.”

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg spurred their growth. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has reversed many of his predecessor’s education policies, this is one area where they agree.

Now 26,000 students attend CTE high schools, and that number is poised to grow. Counting CTE courses offered at other schools as well, the city says 117,000 students participate. This push comes as many employers report that young people need more than high school diplomas to compete in today’s tough global labor market.

Career and technical high schools are supposed to work with industry partners to provide students internships and tailor classes to employers’ needs. They are also expected to teach the Common Core, a set of standards adopted by New York and most states for essential skills to be mastered in each grade.

Seven of the city’s CTE high schools are run by Urban Assembly, a nonprofit network that aims to close achievement gaps.  “We’re looking for the kids having the toughest time,” said Urban Assembly Chief Executive Richard Kahan. “Our overall goal is to get everybody into the middle-class economy.”

At the UA New York Harbor School on Governors Island, for example, students learn to be commercial divers. At UA Maker Academy in lower Manhattan, they use 3-D printers to build prosthetic hands. And at the UA School for Global Commerce in East Harlem, they study freight logistics.

Some teachers say these options give students a real-world sense of purpose, and teenagers who feel useful are less likely to become discipline problems.

At the UA School for Emergency Management in lower Manhattan, which is in its second year, students have helped demolish homes wrecked by superstorm Sandy and signed people up for “Notify NYC,” which sends emails and text alerts about local emergencies.

Several students said they hoped to become police officers or rescue workers. Yash Sharma, a 9th-grader, commutes for an hour and 20 minutes from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens, because he wants to be a firefighter. The school helped him develop a “sixth sense” for potential hazards, he said, and he always tells authorities if he sees untended bags at train stations. “I like to look around my surroundings,” he said, “and see if anything could happen.”

Not all career-oriented schools succeed. Automotive High School in Brooklyn has been failing for so long state officials have threatened to take over or shut it down if it doesn’t improve soon. Last fall, city officials announced an overhaul and required teachers to reapply for their jobs.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has pushed for more quality CTE choices. To encourage growth, the board announced in October that students can now swap an industry certification test in culinary arts, welding, accounting and other trades for one of the five Regents exams needed to get a diploma. New York City officials say they want to expand CTE in health, tourism, construction and software engineering.

Many educators see promise in the model of P-Tech, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The school even got a nod in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013. Its students can complete an associate degree in six years and are first in line for jobs at International Business Machines Corp. , its corporate partner. IBM says 40 similar schools, working with many companies, will be operating in the fall nationwide. Next month P-Tech’s first graduates will get their two-year associate degrees in computer systems technology. Three plan to pursue bachelor’s degrees and three will go to work at IBM.

Privacy, Policy and Digital Communication Seminar


 Professor Phelan with Hamilton & UASEM students.

Professor Phelan with Hamilton & UASEM students.

 By Catherine Phelan, April 24, 2015
Hamilton College news site

High school students from The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management (UASEM) in New York City visited Hamilton on April 16 -17 to discuss privacy in the digital age with a group of Hamilton students. The fast-paced conversation included fundamental questions related to distinctions between adult and adolescent perspectives on privacy and reputation management.

The Hamilton students are enrolled in an innovative seminar titled “Privacy, Policy, and Digital Communication.” They are working with the high school students on a digital privacy toolkit that could be shared with adolescents in the future to explore digital privacy.

The larger goal of the seminar is to understand how privacy, freedom and democracy are intertwined.  In February, Hamilton students enrolled in the seminar visited the UASEM students in Manhattan to begin the conversation on privacy and social media.

This work is made possible with funding from the Levitt Center and assistance from Hamilton’s Library and Information Technology Services.

HS Students Measure Disaster Preparedness of NY Residents

 UASEM students gave New York resident Ben Spalding (L) a survey on disaster preparedness. (Eric Zhang)

UASEM students gave New York resident Ben Spalding (L) a survey on disaster preparedness. (Eric Zhang)

By Sarah Lee | April 30, 2014
The Epoch Times

High school students from the newly founded Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management braved the rainy Wednesday to talk to New Yorkers about disaster preparedness.

The students from UASEM met at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and interviewed the public.

“Our students have created a survey along with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] to try to get information as to how prepared different communities are across New York City,” said school principal Rodolfo Elizondo.

FEMA regional administrator Jerome Hatfield came to support the students and help inform people about the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy.

“What we’re trying to do is to really focus government to support areas of communities that are most in need,” said Hatfield.

Students also went to other parts of the city, including the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. After the students analyze the collected data, FEMA will use the information to help plan for New York’s next potential disaster.

Ben Spalding took the students’ survey. He is a Boy Scout, who keeps extra food and water in his house, has a first aid kit, a radio and even hand-cranked flashlights, but the survey reminded him of a couple of things he hadn’t thought of.

“We have two cats, and we don’t really have a plan for how to take care of them in any sort of emergency or disaster,” said Spalding.

UASEM is in its first year of operation. New York City’s Office of Emergency Management and FEMA have been working together to support the school and help develop the curriculum.

Students in the freshman class say the information they’ve learned has already helped them, even if they don’t end up with a career in emergency management.

“The program itself is great. You learn how to help people. You learn how to prepare for disasters, all types of disasters, man-made and non-man-made,” said student Joli Tejeda.

“Actually, we learned about how to do a family preparedness plan at home, so that we can be prepared, and I talked to my family about it, and we’re more prepared for a disaster,” said student Luis Cortes.

In three short years, the state of New York has experienced a total of nine federally declared disasters. According to a 2012 FEMA survey, only 39 percent of Americans have a household emergency plan in place and almost 50 percent did not have emergency supplies set aside in their homes.

Preparing for Disaster: UASEM & FEMA's PreparAthon!

UASEM Students get a shout out in the New York Times!

Preparing the Next Generation of Emergency Service Leaders


By Anthony S. Mangeri, Domestic Preparedness Journal, Dec 25, 2013

Emergency management is a constantly evolving profession. Anyone wishing to become an emergency manager or work in emergency services should be able to adjust to an ever changing environment and bring calm and structure to a crisis response. Emergency management studies teach students how to develop critical thinking skills and a thorough understanding of the emergency management cycle and incident management process.

Developing Critical Skills
Education plays a critical role in building these skills and preparing students for a career in emergency management, which typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree. However, some professionals go a step further and earn a master’s degree as well. Writing and presenting ideas in a structured and concise way are skills that emergency management students acquire over time. As these students transition from the academic to the real-world environment, speaking and presenting ideas to a variety of audiences becomes very important.

At the core of the profession is the development of plans, policies, and procedures to support, protect, and strengthen the community against threats and hazards. To demonstrate a commitment to community and service, many successful students gain practical experience by volunteering in local emergency management, fire services, emergency medical services, Red Cross, The Salvation Army, or one of the many other volunteer organizations that have emergency service components. Other notable skills for the successful emergency manager include the ability to: think critically; communicate and present skills effectively; and discuss community planning and preparedness efforts in a clear and concise manner. He or she also must be able to: hold workshops and provide briefings to inform the public in times of crisis; understand the tools, systems, and standards commonly used in public safety, such as the National Incident Management System; and continue training, as well as sharing and discussing best practices.

The role of crisis management continues to expand into many private sector areas to include healthcare facilities, utilities, financial institutions, as well as colleges and universities. Because emergency preparedness professionals are now working in many areas outside the public sector, those seeking to work in these areas must understand the details of operations in these sectors as well as in emergency management.

The emergency manager of the future also may transition from other professions to emergency management. In the private sector, for example, emergency preparedness may be a collateral duty, leading many to seek a master’s degree in emergency management or choose to enter certificate programs that provide education that complements their existing education.

Younger Training & Greater Opportunities
A trend that will likely continue to grow in 2014 is incorporating emergency management and responder education into high school curriculums. In New York City, for example, a first of its kind high school dedicated to emergency management studies is midway through its first year. The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management is a Career and Technical Education program and is part of the New York City Public School system. The focus of the program is to integrate emergency management and response curriculum into the core high school experience. Students receive their core high school education through 10th grade, after which they choose from one of three tracks: Response and Recovery, Emergency Communications and Technology, or Emergency Management.

One major success of the program has been the school’s ability to collaborate with local emergency management and disaster relief organizations to provide students with real-world interaction and community readiness. Students graduating from the UASEM program will be well on their way to meeting the training and experience requirements for the International Association of Emergency Managers, Certified Emergency Manager designation. In fact, the students may earn up to 14 college credits upon completing this high school program.

The growing threat of terrorism has changed the role of emergency managers; planning for the consequences of terrorist actions has changed the face of emergency management. However, the mission remains the same. The emphasis continues to be on developing an all-hazard, integrated strategy to protect communities in times of crisis. Emergency management students of the future will need to develop risk assessment and operational planning skills to address community-wide preparedness.

Emergency managers must continue to develop strategies to effectively respond to and recover from all known threats, including terrorism. Emergency planners are working to develop effective operational plans that foster integration of federal, state, and local disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and risk-reduction initiatives.

Anthony S. Mangeri, MPA, CPM, CEM, is the manager of strategic relations for fire services and emergency management and is on the faculty of the American Public University System. He has more than 30 years of experience in emergency management and public safety. For more than 10 of those years, he served as the New Jersey State hazard mitigation officer. During the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, he served as operations chief at the New Jersey Emergency Operations Center, coordinating that state’s response to the passenger-aircraft crashes into the World Trade Center.

UASEM Student Volunteers Recognized in Jewish Week Newspaper

jewish week ad 40 for 40.jpg

First US School for Emergencies

 UASEM in the NY Daily News on September 16, 2013.

UASEM in the NY Daily News on September 16, 2013.

September 16, 2013
By Rachel McMahan, The New York Daily News

The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management team will prepare students for careers as first-responders, public servants and corporate managers who plan for the worst-case scenarios.

THEY WERE babies on 9/11, but students at the nation’s first emergency management-themed high school may lead the response to future tragedies.

The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management, which opened in Manhattan last week with just over 100 ninth-graders, will prepare kids for careers ranging from first-responders to public servants and corporate managers who plan for the worst-case scenarios.

“I’m so impressed with the students,” said Sean Waters, a branch chief with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which, along with the Red Cross and other employers, is helping advise the school on what the kids will learn, eventually offering internships. “It’s the future of our organization; we hope to see these kids accepting positions in federal, state and local emergency management.”

UASEM — the high school name has an abbreviation just like the government agencies working with it — is one of 27 career-and-technical-education high schools opened in the city since 2002 with the aim to start kids on the path to a career in promising industries.

The school has already proved popular among students — with roughly three applicants for each spot — even if they were too young to have witnessed the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I was 1 year old; I don’t remember,” said ninth-grader Gisselle Aguirre, 13, who was nevertheless excited to have landed a spot at the school. “My dad is a lieutenant for the FDNY. I always wanted to be like him.”

Last Wednesday, the school marked 9/11 by studying the events of 12 years ago. But the lesson wasn’t just a textbook learning.

Emergency-management teacher Sal Puglisi, who for the last six years taught special-education science at a Bronx middle school, was an EMT who survived the attacks. He worked his students through questions on everything from conspiracy theories to how it felt to go home that day not knowing where his former partners were — instead of attending a memorial this year.

“This is more important,” said Puglisi, who still wears a bracelet with the names of his EMT partners who died 12 years ago. “I can let them live on through me and teach about them and how they died and possibly educate the next generation of emergency managers how to look at things.”

School Dedicated To Emergency Management Among New Proposed City Schools

April 4, 2013
By Lindsey Christ, Education Reporter, NY1 

 UASEM Principal, Rodolfo Elizondo

UASEM Principal, Rodolfo Elizondo

Does the Future of Emergency Management Lie in a High School?

  By: Elaine Pittman, Emergency Management Magazine, August 29, 2013


A new high school in New York City that integrates emergency management into core curriculum could produce the next generation of emergency managers while helping professionalize the field.

On Sept. 9, about 120 ninth-graders will start their high school education in the new Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management. A nonprofit organization, Urban Assembly is a network of public schools in New York City that aims to provide students with traditional education combined with technical skills and real-world experiences. The organization opens schools based on labor trends and talks with industry to identify current needs.

“There’s a general movement toward localizing emergency management and empowering communities to take these things into their own hands, and this is a really exciting way to do that,” said Liz Oliver, the school’s partnership coordinator. “Our students will be ambassadors to their own community and know what to do should another hurricane or attack strike New York.”

As a public school, all students are welcome to attend — although it’s not going to be filled with a typical day’s worth of coursework. Oliver said the school days will be more rigorous than that of an average public school, and students are required to have an internship, do volunteer work, connect with people in the profession and complete certifications, such as first aid, CPR or GIS.

One challenge was adding emergency management into the curriculum. The teachers are not emergency managers, so the school is relying on its network of industry, nonprofit and government partners to understand what students need to know and what qualities emergency managers should possess. Those partners include FEMA, the New York City Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross and National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, as well as Adelphi University and the Metropolitan College of New York, higher education institutions that offer emergency management degrees. The school also is working to add the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to its cadre of partners.

“It’s our partners’ job to come in and see places where they can integrate into every core class — English, science, math, history — places where you can insert this emergency management lens that we’re trying to use to teach our students the core curriculum,” Oliver said.

English classes will include communications skills that are important in the field through the study of public service announcements, persuasive speech and organizing and prioritizing information. A field trip to North Brother Island, which was under quarantine during New York City’s typhoid outbreak and where Typhoid Mary was housed until she died in 1938, will include public health experts discussing quarantine and epidemics in history and contemporary society. Oliver said this trip will connect well to the ninth-grade global history class that discusses the movement of people around the world throughout history, as well as biology classes studying infection and the spread of disease.

The first year will include a broad survey of emergency management, and as the students’ understanding of the field increases, their education will become more specialized. At the end of the 10th grade, students will select a pathway, similar to a college major: response and recovery, emergency communications and technology, or emergency management. And by the 11th grade, they will have completed an internship, said Oliver.

While the school seeks to provide career and technical education, Oliver said it’s different than vocational-technical schools that were created in response to the industrial economy. “This is a new evolution in education to prepare students for career and college,” she said. “One of the reasons aside from labor trends that we chose emergency management as a school theme is that the skills, character and personal qualities that you need to be a good emergency manager — like problem solving, communication and collaboration — apply not just to emergency management and will help them be successful in whatever they do.”

After graduating from the high school, students will not be required to pursue emergency management, but based on why they want to get this education instead of a traditional one, it’s clear they are seeking a humanitarian path. When asked why they are interested in this school, Oliver said many students say, “We just want to help people.”

“There are a lot of problems in New York City,” Oliver said, “and it can be really empowering to them to have the tools and a very direct way to help people.”

As the school prepares to greet its first round of freshmen in early September, it’s clear that the education model will be watched by public- and private-sector emergency managers as it provides a new, formalized method for developing the future of the field.