Monique Scott '99
Educator and Entrepreneur
Current Residence: Brooklyn
Years at PDS: (7th–12th grade) Transferred from St. George’s School when PDS absorbed it in 1993; former City of Poughkeepsie public school student
I was a bit apprehensive coming to PDS but happily surprised by the warm welcome from students and teachers. Immediately felt an emphasis on “student voice.” I was home!
Undergraduate college: Long Island University, BA ’03 (Brooklyn campus)
Double Major: Secondary Education and English Literature
College activities: Fellow, Center for Urban Education—received funds toward tuition while preparing to become a leader in urban education; as student government president (two years), led campaign against student apathy; encouraged student empowerment and helped create a scholarship initiative for students by students; radio talk-show host. At LIU learned of the systemic issue in education—about which a radical teacher in one classroom could do very little—and in senior year, became determined to create a different kind of school.
Graduate school: NYU, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, MA ’12 (anticipated)
Focus: Alternative Education and Community Development;Thesis: “Social Capital as a Path toward Academic Success of Youth of Color”
Current career focus: Founder, Freebrook Academy, Brooklyn, NY
Conceived as tuition-free grade 7–12 school in 2003; currently hosts after-school program and discussions for youths; opens officially as school in September 2011 with additional K–6 grades added after researching lower school options for own four-year-old daughter. Discovered parents from communities of color or low-income neighborhoods also looking for private, progressive school connected to community, reflective of own culture and affordable. Current enrollment clustered in K–2 grades, with additional students in grades 3–7 students. Long-term goal: a tuition-free and self-sustainable Freebrook!
Favorite PDS courses:
American History (with Jay Martin): Discussed who writes history and why the things we know should be documented, but rarely are, and “power”—and the lack thereof—and how power relations dictate how we see the world.
Education (CS*): Lots of independent work; read A.S. Neill (founder of the Summerhill School, in the UK, which I visited post LIU), Dewey, Piaget and others.
CAFÉ (Cultural Awareness for Everyone): Co-led innovative course designed to encourage cultural awareness and acceptance of others; talked about race relations (David Lamb, author of the novel,Do Platanos Go wit Collard Greens?, spoke at PDS), LGBTQ rights and more. Planning the class and engaging with students through journaling, and facilitating discussion was so fun, years passed before I recognized how much I learned from co-leading the class.
At PDS, discovered what education could be and am truly grateful; 12th-grade thesis, “The Oppression of Minority Students in the US Public Education System,” reflected on differences between my learning and that of my non-PDs city of Poughkeepsie peers; learned what is possible and became determined to work in field of education.
Favorite PDS experience(s): Planning for annual multi-cultural conferences in Brooklyn; original musical—will forever appreciate the entire experience, from writing songs and acting to recording.
Favorite PDS memories: Planning and hosting school proms—the feeling of making them happen and not conforming to the prom traditions elsewhere—and dancing up a storm!
Favorite PDS teachers/people: I love everyone!
Hobbies/Interests: Self-proclaimed education junkie; love reading various education texts and developing curriculum; dancing and trying new restaurants; creating abstract paintings.
In touch with: Karmen (Cockerham) Smallwood–Udjate ’99, Jeanne Elone ’99, Kitama Jackson ’99 and Justin Simmons ’99
Last book you've read/movie you’ve seen:
The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2
Person who currently inspires you: My daughter, Nzinga
Life goal(s): Five years: Freebrook doing well with high quality program in all grades; second campus beginning operation in similar neighborhood outside of NY. Ten years: Author of book(s) on Freebrook experience; finishing Ph.D. program with focus on education reform in the United States.
End thoughts: I've worked on creating Freebrook Academy for a very long time; the journey was not easy and I could have given up but didn’t. Freebrook will allow me to share my PDS educational experience and my desire to effect change within the Bed-Stuy community and the larger world.
*CS (central study course); now known as“intensive studies”
Editor’s Note: Freebrook Academy, located at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, officially opened in September 2011. Visit the school’s website to find our more. Monique is pictured above with Don Fried, high school English teacher and director of college counseling at PDS last spring. This profile was excerpted from the fall 2011 edition of the school magazine, Compass.