Today I am at the East High School library. Built in the late 50’s when the old East moved from Alexander to Main, the library, spacious and well lit, is overlooked by a portrait of its first Principal, the venerable Albert H. Wilcox (1868 – 1943). The painting was done by John C. Menihan, Class of ’26, one of Rochester’s most distinguished portraitist, lithographer, and watercolorist.
The library is notable for its archive, containing yearbooks, school newspapers and other historical documents dating back to 1901. One enterprising Social Studies teacher wrote his Master’s Thesis on the yearbooks as reflections on the school’s ethnic and racial transformations spanning decades.
Now, the library has something new—and exciting. The library is home to the just christened Word Café. The Café sports 6 raised tables and 2 larger roundtables, all equipped with comfortable chairs. The project was made possible by faculty donations, in particular three individuals who donated $1,000 from teacher incentive monies. Naturally, the color motif is purple, East’s signature shade. In the Café, students, faculty, staff and community volunteers can buy hot beverages and cider and a delicious array of pastries from a local bakery.
Why is this exciting? The café is more than a café. It’s a learning laboratory. Very soon, the pastries will be made by 7th and 8th grade culinary classes from East’s Academy of Hospitality & Tourism. Beverages are provided by the school’s renowned Metals Café (see video schooltube.com/video/23fa1d023a1946a581f2/ ) More over, the Word Cafe is staffed by student volunteers who learn real-life job readiness skills in retail and customer service.
As importantly, the Café brings people to the library. At times a seat can be hard to find. Fundamentally, in the city schools the library is an oasis, a place where students are surrounded by books—some they actually like to read! It’s a place where students can browse the stacks (some actually do) and spark their own curiosity. Oh, did I mention the café’s profits are used to buy, yes, more books!
This is just the beginning. Special events and poetry slams are in the works. Down the line, the space may be used for outside meetings and discussion groups, furthering the essential task of integrating schools and community.
So, the Word is good news. . .