New Roots Charter School’s First Graduates are College-Bound

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Tompkins Weekly 1/30/12
By Sarah Rubenstein-Gillis

This time of year, college seniors across the nation begin to wait anxiously by their mailboxes to find out if they’ve been accepted to the colleges of their choice.

A “Sign of Sustainability” here in Tompkins County is the interest colleges are expressing in the New Roots Charter School Class of 2012. As the first batch of college acceptances rolls in, it’s clear that a New Roots education is not only powerful preparation for college, it is helping local students to be highly attractive candidates.

New Roots is a small public regional high school founded in downtown Ithaca in 2009. The school’s mission is to be “a model of secondary education that integrates best practices in sustainability education with those proven to support educational equity.” I sat down with a group of staff and students to gather their perspectives on the ways New Roots’ commitment to Education for Sustainability has helped to prepare this exceptional group of young adults for life beyond high school.

Senior Year Program Coordinator Peter McWain said, “We’re training kids for jobs that don’t yet exist. They are learning how to acquire and synthesize information instead of just learning disconnected facts. Unlike other schools where learning about sustainability is relegated to a weekly Recycling Club meeting, New Roots emphasizes cross-disciplinary study that empowers our students to be catalysts for change. They will bring this experience as engaged community members and student leaders to colleges, which are often incubators for the broader social movements in this country and around the world. They will walk in ready to work.”

Principal Tina Nilsen-Hodges adds that, “Growing numbers of colleges are initiating sustainability programs and promoting “green”-oriented jobs and careers. Our students can be assets to support these budding programs.”

Senior Zoe Fassett-Manuszewski, who has been at New Roots since its says, “Our first graduating class is tackling a variety of community problems for our Senior Capstone projects. We’re contributing in a very real way while earning Syracuse University credit as part of our Participation in Government course called “Inventing the Future. Everything I have done at New Roots has prepared me to make an active contribution.”

Academic Counselor Michelle Wright adds, “In my conversations with college admissions officers, they are very interested in New Roots and appreciate the depth of information included in our narrative evaluations. Our detailed transcripts go way beyond just listing numbers and test scores. This helps our students stand out and gives admissions officers a multidimensional picture of the knowledge, skills and potential they bring to the table.”

Profiles of a few of our Seniors (left to right):
Kelsie Torello of Dryden will attend Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley MA, with dual majors in Anthropology and Political Science. Her goal is to pursue graduate studies in Public Policy and a career in International Policy.

Zoe Fassett-Manuszewski, from Binghamton, intends to pursue the Liberal Arts at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Korin Carpenter, from Ithaca, has thus far been accepted to Wells College in Aurora, NY. He plans to pursue Engineering and has interests in everything from Philosophy to Physics.

Robin Trumble, of Freeville, plans to study Public Policy, followed by Law School. He has already received acceptance letters from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA and the University of Portland in Oregon.

Dax Simitch-Warke of Freeville was offered a generous merit-based scholarship and accepted early decision into his first choice school – Alleghany College in Meadville, PA. Dax plans to focus on Environmental and Life Sciences.

Tiaira Neil, a city of Ithaca resident, has been offered a merit-based scholarship at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and been invited for interviews at two highly competitive institutions in the Northeast.

Siera Ellis of Groton will study Equine Science at SUNY Cobleskill.

Prospective students and families and interested community members are invited to visit our website at, attend an upcoming event, or call us at 607-882-9220 for more information.

Sarah Rubenstein-Gillis is the Director of Community Programs at New Roots Charter School

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