When the Simon & Schuster diversity council started looking for a New York City high school to adopt back in 2007, they did not take the decision lightly.
“It was really important to us to find a school that was involved in media,” said Amanda Armstrong-Frank, a Simon & Schuster employee who also acts as the chair of the company’s Diversity Council. It seemed like a perfect fit when they found the High School for Media and Communications in Washington Heights. One of four schools located in the George Washington educational campus, the school’s mission seemed perfectly aligned with the goals of the publishing house to be involved in an educational institution in its hometown.
The partnership began with donations of books to assist the school’s large population of English learners, but Simon & Schuster saw an opportunity to help the students develop even more. “It was very puzzling to go to a school focused on media and communications, and have them know nothing about publishing,” said Armstrong-Frank. Simon & Schuster arranged a presentation where students could learn about the publishing process from start to finish, and the interest that resulted prompted an ambitious project to help the students publish their own book, with a little help from their professional friends at Simon & Schuster.
After enlisting teachers to assist the students on a day-to-day basis, the RISE project was formed. Students from all grade levels submitted artwork, essays, poems, and stories, which were then combined into an actual bound book. After learning about the multiple steps that go into making a book, the students were even more excited to see their work anthologized.
Now in its third year, the RISE anthologies have become more refined with each publication, with the students picking a theme of social justice for the latest edition. The books have featured more than 50 students, and boasts over 200 pages of student expression. For the Simon & Schuster employees, it has been gratifying to observe a growing level of participation and to see how the writing has improved from year to year.
“It’s really rewarding for us to have an impact on young adults who, before we came along, were really unaware of the many different aspects of publishing,” said Armstrong-Frank.
“The team from Simon and Schuster is an important part of our Media family and community,” said Emel Topbas-Mejia, Assistant Principal at the High School for Media and Communications. “We value and appreciate them deeply for helping our students fulfill their dreams. They are making a huge impact in the lives of our young people.”
Simon & Schuster isn’t the only organization impressed. At the book launch party for the 2017 edition of RISE at the Morris-Jumel mansion, Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla announced the school would receive a $700,000 grant to go towards the creation of a television studio and media center for students.
The school’s partnership with Simon & Schuster now includes a book club that features author visits with the students, visits by employees at the school’s annual college and career day, field trips to the Simon & Schuster offices in Rockefeller Center, and an annual scholarship awarded to a graduating student for the purchase of college books and textbooks.
“Working with Simon and Schuster has given me the amazing opportunity of applying for, and winning a scholarship that provides much needed support when it comes to payment for college,” said Marcus Dia, a student contributor to RISE and the recipient of the 2018 scholarship. “With their collaborative publication of the book RISE, they are an organization that provide many possibilities for students who are looking for success in the writing field. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity that Simon and Schuster has given me.”
“Simon & Schuster is thrilled to be making a difference at the High School for Media and Communications,” said Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster. “We are happy to share the world of publishing with such passionate and ambitious students.”
Simon & Schuster is a sister company of CBS.