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Rachael Gazdick named executive director of Syracuse chapter of Say Yes to Education
Rachael Gazdick named executive director of Syracuse chapter of Say Yes to EducationAugust 20, 2008Patrick Farrellpmfarrel@syr.edu
Rachael Gazdick has been named executive director of the Syracuse chapter of the Say Yes to Education and Economic Development program, according to Douglas Biklen, dean of Syracuse University’s School of Education.
Say Yes to Education Inc. (Say Yes) is a national, nonprofit education foundation committed to dramatically increasing high school and college graduation rates for inner-city youth. The program provides comprehensive support-including the promise of a full college or vocational education-aligned with what research indicates is needed to enable every child in the program to achieve his or her potential. The Syracuse Say Yes initiative is unique because it is the first Say Yes chapter to embrace an entire city school district, making it the largest school improvement program of its kind in the nation.
“Rachael is a dynamic leader who knows our kids and our systems,” says Syracuse City School District Superintendent Daniel Lowengard. “She will be a perfect match to lead the most exciting initiative the school district or community has ever undertaken.”
“We engaged in a national search to find the very best leader to engage in this unprecedented initiative in school improvement,” Biklen says. “We wanted to find someone who has a vision for what is possible and also the experience of working hand-in-hand with teachers, school administrators, superintendents, community agencies, foundations, and, above all, families and students. We found all of these qualities here at home in the person of Rachael Gazdick.
“She is the ideal person to help mobilize us all to achieve the promise that the Syracuse Say Yes demonstration affords. She has a host of ideas for how to engage public school students in the excitement of education,” Biklen says. “She will enlist the entire community-from SU students, faculty and staff, to parents and other volunteers-to help make sure that Syracuse students blossom. I am grateful that Rachael has agreed to take on this crucially important position.”
Syracuse is the latest Say Yes chapter. Housed within SU’s School of Education, the Syracuse Say Yes initiative has been funded by a grant from Say Yes to Education Inc. and functions as a collaborative partnership among SU, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) and 25 private colleges. Other Say Yes chapters are located in Cambridge, Mass.; Hartford, Conn.; New York City; and Philadelphia.
“To have a good program, you’ve got to have somebody who can really communicate with all of the partners,” says Anne Larkin, professor of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., and director of the Cambridge Say Yes to Education chapter. Larkin was a member of the Syracuse Say Yes chapter director selection committee. “With Rachel, we discovered that she had all of the qualifications that would make her a real leader, but also a team player.”
Prior to accepting her new position, Gazdick was director of the Office of Community Engagement and Integration for SU, reporting to the dean of Hendricks Chapel. Gazdick also has taught at the University since 1999 and is an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Her extensive experience in community-based programs includes serving as executive director of Syracuse’s Near East Side Community Development Organization. Gazdick also has served as site director for Citizen Schools in Boston and as a special needs elementary school teacher for Teach For America in Los Angeles and Lake Arthur, La. She currently serves on the boards of OnPoint for College and Refugee Resettlement. She was chair of SU’s 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and is past president of the Syracuse Inner City Rotary Club.
As director of the Office of Community Engagement and Integrative Learning, Gazdick has been responsible for overseeing a number of community-focused programs, including the International Young Scholars Program, the Sojourner Storytelling Conference, Hoops for Peace, Chess Camp for Kids and Roots & Wings.
Roots & Wings, an after school apprenticeship program for children at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bellevue elementary schools, invites fourth- and fifth- graders to engage in hands-on learning through apprenticeships. These apprenticeships introduce young people to the world of science, journalism, government, photography, law and the arts.
“I have seen firsthand how remarkable our young people are in the Syracuse City School District,” Gazdick says. “I am honored to be able to continue working across the city with countless individuals who work tirelessly to educate, mentor and inspire our students.”
“We are thrilled to have such a skilled leader head up our efforts in Syracuse,” says Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, president of Say Yes to Education Inc. “Rachael has a clear track record of success, and we believe that she can help nurture and grow our program to help children in the Syracuse schools reach their full potential and achieve academic success.”
Gazdick holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from SU, a master’s degree in community organizing, planning, policy and administration from Boston College, and a master’s degree in education policy from Harvard University. She currently is working to complete a doctorate in the Cultural Foundations of Education program in SU’s School of Education.