Scholars at Sea
Growing up in rural Virginia, Murray Fisher filled his childhood with aquatic adventures—swimming, kayaking, sailing—that fostered in him a love for the marine environment. In 2002, while working for Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting water from pollution, he realized that young people in New York City lacked the rich and meaningful experiences on the water that had inspired him to pursue a career protecting it. Fisher had an idea—he would create an environmental academy at the mouthpiece of the Hudson River Estuary, one of the richest water bodies in the world, the trove of natural resources upon which New York City was built.
Now, almost a decade later, his dream is a reality. Early in his administration, Mayor Michael Bloomberg committed to closing the city’s most underperforming schools, and The New York Harbor School joined a wave of small, themed schools springing up in their place, opening in Bushwick, Brooklyn in 2003 and finally relocating to Governors Island in 2010. A public high school supported by The Urban Assembly, a fundraising network of 21 themed schools around the city, the New York Harbor School offers a college preparatory curriculum supplemented by six Career & Technical Education (CTE) concentrations—Marine Biology, Aquaculture, Vessel Operations, Ocean Engineering, Marine Systems Technology, and Professional/Scientific Diving—that prepare students for colleges and careers simultaneously.
“We think it’s really important that New York City produces just 100 graduates per year who have an intimate relationship with their marine environment,” said Fisher. “We want students who are interested in becoming the managers of this harbor,” added Dudley. Cullen and Candace (featured here) could be among the city’s next generation of stewards. But for now, they’re students.
A Shipboard Sophomore
By the Numbers
New York Harbor School Principal Nathan Dudley still struggles to strike a balance between college prep and career education elements in his curriculum. On average, The NYHS ranks above public city high schools in terms of 4-year graduation rate, but lags behind both public city high schools and other Urban Assembly schools in college enrollment rates. “It’s a number we’re not happy with,” said Dudley. “We need to figure out ways to make [our students] more college ready.”
Graduation and College Enrollment Rates
Sources: New York City Department of Education.