Postgraduate Researcher of NYC Public Schools - looking for connections!

Hi, my name is Julia Cabanas and I am an Architecture postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge, UK. I am researching the NYC public school system, the city’s issues with segregation and education inequity, and the way some of these issues can be addressed through architecture and urban design. I am focusing specifically on Harlem schools, but will also be looking at the rest of the city in my research. I first encountered NYCEDU at the SPARK conference a few weeks ago.

I am due to stay in NYC for 10 weeks in the summer from 20th July 2019 for fieldwork, and I would love to start making connections with educators, activists, policymakers and anyone who has had experience with the New York public school system. I am also keen to make connections with designers and architects! I’d love to spend my time volunteering or engaging with the community somehow, so if anyone has any suggestions for contacts / initiatives I would be very grateful!

Thanks so much.



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Hi and welcome!

Here are some leads to follow.

The AIANY Architecture for Education Committee is the local affiliate of AIA National’s CAE. The committee provides and organizes events where architects, educators, educational administrators, and the public can meet and exchange ideas to promote better educational facilities of all kinds.


The Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline is a Cradle to Career Collective Impact Partnership made up of a cross-sector of organizations working together to improve outcomes for families and students in Central and West Harlem.


Research them and let me know if you want any specific introductions.

designing the WE, a social impact design studio that worked on Undesign the Red Line

In terms of volunteering, what specific things are you looking to do? Topics you’re interested in? Time you can dedicate? There are awesome organizations represented on this forum, like Teens Take Charge! You can also find projects on websites like Catch a Fire.

Hi Deborah,

Thank you SO much for all of these links – each of them are very helpful. I’ll be having a thorough look at each website!

Volunteering: on my first trip to NY, I volunteered in a school as an art assistant (with Behind the Book) it was a good way to visit a school and meet some students.

For my upcoming trip, I would like to have a few regular volunteering jobs every week. I’m really open to anything that is school or community focused. Currently looking at organisations such as Harlem Grown.

I need to not only to understand schools but meet families, teachers, activists, policymakers and any one who is involved with the ‘community’ aspect of NYC so I can understand the city’s diverse culture but also its ingrained (good and bad) social structures. Soup kitchens, shelters, after school clubs… all these would help. Obviously the skills I can offer are more ‘arts’ focused so for example after school creative clubs might be better suited than say a sports club!

I’d like to get a better understanding of school funding, construction and planning – but I think this will come from speaking to educators etc. One of my goals would be to have a conversation with someone working for the DOE :smile:

Thanks again Deborah!

Harlem Rennaisance Education Pipeline may be your best bet, then, especially if you want to stay within the Harlem area. They’re a collective impact organization that is connected with parents, schools, afterschool activities, etc. Let me know if you’d like me to send your post to people I know to see if they’d be interested in connecting.

This I’m not as sure about. Maybe someone else in #NYCEDU can help!

This would be super helpful Deborah, I will send their team and email anyway but a reference from you would be great too. Thank you!

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Hi Julia! Are you still in NYC? My friend Josh and I are working on a project to also understand the segregation of NYC schools but through the lens of photography (no pun intended).

Josh is a photographer who is looking to showcase the dichotomy of schools in NYC through candid photos of students, educators, etc… in various schools and campus.

There might be some alignment.


Hi Rahul - thanks for reaching out! Could you drop me an email at and we can try to set something up. I’m in NYC until 12th October. I’m super interested to see some of these photos!