Strollers and Stilettos interviewed Iris Even, Head of The School for Young Performers, for our featured business this month. Read the full interview and learn about this unique school below!
S&S: When was The School for Young Performers founded and by whom?
IE: The School for Young Performers was founded in 1995 by Alan Simon.
S&S: Tell us a little about the philosophy of SYP.
IE: SYP’s core philosophy is to offer an exceptional and highly individualized education to all students, regardless of their professional aspirations, learning challenges and/or family plans. It is essentially to create one’s own path to success, academically and personally.
S&S: SYP is a unique school for kids and families with active lives, can you tell us how the school works?
IE: I think the best way to describe how SYP works would be to give an example of a current student. A family moved cross-country to facilitate the training with a top tennis coach, and the student needed to practice every morning. The only time school could occur on a consistent basis was in the afternoons. Thus, SYP designed a rigorous school schedule of 1 to 5 pm Mon-Fri; this included two AP courses. The student was able to focus on tennis each morning, prep/participate for tournaments and excel in all of his classes. He even had time for field trips, and we are now planning his next school year.
S&S: What are the different programs and education services you offer?
IE: The School for Young Performers is a K-12 program. There is an elementary school (grades K-5), middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12). For our high school students, we offer college counseling, SAT/ACT/AP/Subject exam planning, access to professional voice and dance coaches, portfolio reviews, recommendations/avenues for internships, etc. For our younger pupils coming to SYP for a finite period of time, we offer assistance with ISEE/SSAT exam prep and the admissions process with local elite private schools. SYP also provides specially designed summer modules to further student-led inquiry and facilitate accelerated academic tracks.
S&S: How does the admissions process work?
IE: Families reach out to SYP with such diverse needs; therefore, my first objective is to understand their goal(s) for transitioning to one-on-one schooling and how SYP can best serve their needs. If I determine a good fit with individualized education, then a more in-depth meeting is warranted (via phone, Skype or, ideally, in-person). Families have a lot of questions about how schooling in the home or while traveling really works, how it can be sustainable and optimal. Sometimes a family is ready to start within 2-4 weeks (usually the case with student-athletes, performers, etc); whereas, other families continue discussing the possibilities with me and my staff for months. I appreciate the unique nature of each situation as it allows me to best serve the needs of each child, which is paramount.
S&S: Can you tell us a little about the curriculum?
IE: SYP’s elementary school students are presented with an engaging and challenging curriculum designed to provide them with the foundation needed for future academic success. There is a strong emphasis on project-based learning, especially in STEM and history studies; developing proper writing/researching practices and a strong mathematics foundation are also essential to our lower school.
SYP’s middle school program prepares students for the rigors of high school. By combining new media, progressive teaching tools and NextGen thinking with traditional coursework, SYP provides its middle school pupils with a rich and balanced education. The course schedule includes a wide range of subjects across all areas of mathematics, language arts, social studies and the sciences. A minimum of one elective course is required per semester, and, in 8th grade, there is the option to take Algebra I and/or a foreign language for high school credit.
SYP’s high school program was specially designed for the arduous and uncompromising schedules of professional students. They have unparalleled access to an excellent and competitive education with the flexibility their careers demand. Research and project-based work is still highly encouraged, and, when appropriate, a new course will be created and tailored to meet a student’s deeper interest in a subject, maintaining our child-centered and individualized philosophy.
S&S: What are the benefits of one-on-one teaching?
IE: To me, one-on-one essentially means meeting students at their level, addressing their learning styles and helping them strive for excellence on their own terms. There is zero compromise, educationally speaking, which is huge.
S&S: What is the most rewarding part of working with SYP?
IE: Unequivocally, the most rewarding part of SYP is seeing my students thrive. As bittersweet as it is to send off graduates to colleges such as UC Berkeley and Spelman (class of 2017), I am supremely proud of them and confident they will be successful.
S&S: Has SYP received any awards or accreditations you would like to mention?
IE: As a highly exclusive program mostly served through referrals and confidential research, SYP has not had the chance to be up for any awards (yet).
S&S: We all know kids say the darndest things… Do you have a funny story or kid quote that you will always remember?
IE: During my observation visits, students like to share what they’ve been doing. Last year, one of our 4th graders demonstrated his cookie-decorating machine, which he designed and motorized on his own. The piece de resistance was when he asked what frosting design I might fancy. I picked the flower as it seemed pretty intricate. The end result was beautiful and tasty, but observing the student’s sense of accomplishment and pride was the sweetest part of the moment.
S&S: Any exciting plans for the future of SYP?
IE: This past spring, I had the honor of attending SXSWEdu on behalf of SYP. Given all of the ideas germinating out of the conference, I now have a strong wish list. One is coming to fruition this fall: my team and I are implementing digital platforms to connect our students in LA, NY, Miami and abroad, especially in the areas of foreign language, STEM and geography. It will essentially allow for collaborative project work and peer mentorship across state lines and borders. This is only the beginning as SYP has much more to explore; there are no limits.