Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News
Joshua Vasquez led efforts to beef up safety at Bushwick Leaders' High School for Academic Excellence because of gang violence in the area. As a result, police patrol the area when school starts and ends, and suspensions are down 50%.
Students who have to cross paths with gang members on their way to Bushwick Leaders’ High School for Academic Excellence now have a safer trip, thanks to global history teacher Joshua Vasquez.
After hearing about kids getting beaten up and robbed on their way to school undefined gang members would station themselves at the Central Ave. M train off DeKalb Ave. undefined Vasquez led efforts to beef up police presence in the neighborhood.
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“Gangs tend to recruit at middle and high schools, so each morning they stood outside and made their presence felt,” said Vasquez. “We had to figure out a way to provide safety for kids coming to school.”
It helped that the 42-year-old had been a community organizer with East Brooklyn Congregations for about nine years and already had a strong relationship with the 83rd Precinct.
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Vasquez’s commitment to protect his students earns him a nomination for a Hometown Heroes in Education award.
The Clinton Hill resident, who grew up with a single mom in the Fulton Houses, facilitated efforts between the NYPD and the school about two years ago to stem violence and crime.
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In response, police patrols increased around Bushwick Ave. and DeKalb Ave., and extra cops were stationed when school started and ended each day.
The extra sets of eyes have made a difference, Vasquez said.
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“The gang activity is still present, but we were able to reduce it,” he said. “The police presence really had an impact on safety.”
Inside the school, superintendent suspensions are down 50% since 2011, and students are “very happy to have someone they can go to” if they feel unsafe, Vasquez said.
Vasquez said he sees his reflection in many of his pupils undefined he was once a failing student at Humanities High School in Chelsea, until he met women’s literature teacher Perry Weiner, who became his mentor.
“He knew how to reach students,” said Vasquez, who later graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College and New York University. “I wanted to be him.”
Now the new chair of his school’s history department tries to inspire his own students.
“The ingredients for transforming schools and communities is the same,” said Vasquez. “It’s dedicated, organized people having the courage to work for the same goals.”