|BJF BIG SHOT|
YM & YWHA Washington Heights and Inwood, Manhattan
For most NYC transplants, their travels end once they reach the Big Apple. But if you're Rachel Harris, that's only the beginning.
Growing up just outside of Chicago, Rachel now calls Ft. Greene home and she's currently the Literacy Director of the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, making the daily two and a half hour round-trip commute from Brooklyn to uptown Manhattan to ensure that our city's children are receiving the best after-school literacy assistance possible.
Rachel has a longstanding history within the educational and arts communities: she received a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and acquired her teaching certification at Dominican University. She taught in classrooms throughout Chicago and also worked as a public school librarian, as an editor for an arts and culture newsmagazine and as an educator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Rachel has now been on the YM & YWHA team for over a year.
The Brooke Jackman Foundation funds many of the YM & YWHA's after-school and family literacy programs throughout the year. Much like our Brooke, Rachel, too, wanted to be able to offer children from underserved communities the opportunities that an excellent education and an engagement with literature had given her-and we couldn't be more thrilled with the work she has done at the YM & YWHA.
When asked about the accomplishments of the literacy programs at the YM & YWHA, Rachel responded: "When I think of success, I think of Priscilla, a first grader in our Family Literacy Program. When she started in the program at the beginning of the year she would hardly speak and complained she couldn't do her homework because she 'couldn't read.' Now she rushes into the Brooke Jackman Foundation Family Literacy Program, clamoring for a chance to read to the group aloud before she's even taken off her backpack and jacket. That, in my book, is what a success looks like."
Traveling from Chicago to Brooklyn to Washington Heights has just been a part of Rachel's journey and with successes like Priscilla's, she's definitely on the right path.