Mayor Bowser awards Briya grant to provide students with immigration legal services

Briya Public Charter School was honored to be named a recipient of an Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant by Mayor Muriel Bowser on March 21.

The grant will enable Briya to provide its student families with free legal consultations and representation through a deepened partnership with Julia M. Toro Law Firm, an immigration law firm founded by attorney Julia Toro. The funds will also provide services for parents of students at Bancroft Elementary, a longtime partner of Briya.

Services funded by the grant will include on-site presentations at Know Your Rights Fairs; individual consultations; and pro bono court representation related to applications for U Visas, T Visas, green cards, asylum, citizenship, and more.

“This grant addresses many of the barriers families face when seeking legal information and services, like cost and location,” said Raquel Farah, Briya Student Services Coordinator. “We’ll be able to provide free services for people within their communities, in locations they are already comfortable with.”

“We’re thrilled to have this grant so that more families can live more peacefully and tranquilly while they pursue their education,” Toro said.

Briya is one of ten organizations serving the immigrant community in DC who were awarded IJLS grants by Mayor Bowser.

“The Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program is one way that my administration can help support DC’s immigrant community,” the mayor said. “The District is safer and stronger when residents know and understand their rights, and these ten organizations will help spread the message that our city has their back.”


About Briya PCS: Families enroll in Briya’s two-generation program together: parents study English, digital literacy, and parenting while their children receive a high-quality early education. Briya also offers a high school diploma and training for Medical Assistant and Child Development Associate credentials. The school believes, and research validates, that educating parents and children together promotes strong families and success in school and in life.

Briya inaugurates new Fort Totten campus

Briya Public Charter School, along with Bridges Public Charter School and Mary’s Center, celebrated the opening of their joint Fort Totten campus with an Open House this October. Together, the three organizations will offer education, health care, and social services to the Fort Totten community.

Approximately 1,600 people—neighborhood residents, funders, political leaders, school families, staff, board members and others—attended the event, which included tours of the 81,000-square-foot facilities, activities for children of all ages, health screenings, food, and a short program and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Jennie Niles, Deputy Mayor for Education, speaking to the attendees during the program portion of the event.Jennie Niles, Deputy Mayor for Education, spoke to the attendees during the program portion of the event.

“This really is a quintessential project of having disparate groups of people come together for the better of all,” Niles said. “This group of three organizations is doing something that we don’t see in other cities. It’s actually working from birth all the way through adulthood and everything in between to make sure that our citizens have what they need. I could not be more pleased to be here.”

Joe Bruno, President of Building Hope, and Don Soifer, Vice President of the DC Public Charter School Board, also addressed the crowd.

“If you look at the excellence that Briya represents, if you look at the excellence that Bridges represents, and if you look at the excellence that the Mary’s Center partnership has delivered for our community … you can see the way that this represents the very best of what public charter schools deliver to our city,” Soifer said.

To conclude the program, a group of organization leaders, board members, supporters, and students came together for a ribbon cutting to officially inaugurate the new building, which is Briya’s fourth location in D.C.

“It’s time to turn a page to a new chapter in Briya’s history book,” said Christie McKay, Executive Director. “I’m sure I am among many who are excited to see where our students lead us next.”

Briya 10-Year Review

Briya shines during 10-year charter review

Briya is looking forward to the future after earning exceptional charter review results and having its charter renewed.

The DC Public Charter School Board is required to conduct reviews of charter schools every five years to ensure they are meeting academic, legal and fiscal standards. Briya received outstanding results on its 10-year review, and the DC PCSB board voted to renew the charter for the standard five years.

One aspect of the review was an evaluation of the school’s goal achievement, which relates to student success in PreK, adult family literacy, and workforce development programs.

Briya has met all of its goals for the past ten years, which Dan Soifer, DC PCSB board vice chair, said is exceptional.

“Nothing about [Briya’s] goals strikes me as easy to achieve,” Soifer said. “Your work is unique in the city, your role is unique, and your record of accomplishment I think speaks for itself.”

The review also included qualitative analysis. Observers made 18 unannounced visits to Briya classrooms in a two-week period. Briya earned a high rating and many positive comments from reviewers.

“The teachers had high expectations for students and the students were committed to doing excellent work throughout all of the classroom observations,” the PCSB report states. “The teachers conveyed a passion for their students and for their content.”

Observers also said that PreK students’ social-emotional development was well supported and that computer, job, employability, and life skills were well integrated into adult family literacy classes, among other comments.

Briya staff anticipates many future years of empowering DC families.

“The last ten years have been an amazing opportunity to work with such caring, dedicated staff to provide high-quality integrated education for children, women and whole families,” said Christie McKay, Briya’s executive director. “In the next five years I hope to continue to refine our model and impact lives.”

Brookings Institution Study

Brookings Institution study shows benefits of Briya and Mary’s Center’s partnership

Briya’s partnership with Mary’s Center is featured in a study by the Brookings Institution as a valuable example of how schools and clinics can work together to strengthen communities.

“The combination of a school and clinic that function together as a ‘hub’ to provide healthcare, social services and education shows promise as a way to help improve social mobility in low-income neighborhoods,” according to the study.

In addition to the co-location of education, health and social services, the study cites the provision of education for parents and children simultaneously as a key strategy that contributes to Briya/Mary’s Center’s success. Researchers conclude that the combination of a dual-generation school and a clinic could be a model for others to follow.

“Briya/Mary’s Center is an interesting case of how a school-clinic hub can impact the medical, social and educational health of a community, potentially laying the foundation for greater economic mobility in a neighborhood,” the study says.

Read the full study here.

Briya Know Your Rights Events 2015

Agency representative reviewing materials with studentKnow Your Rights event provides students with valuable resources

Briya students learned about their rights as workers, tenants, immigrants, and parents living in DC during Briya’s first Know Your Rights info fair on May 6.

Held at Briya’s Ontario Road site, the event was an opportunity for various local organizations to share their resources and expertise with Briya students and others from the local community.

“Student surveys and brainstorming with students and staff have shown that our families have a lot of need in areas like housing, jobs and legal support,” said Community Schools Coordinator Stephanie Mintz, who organized the event. “This was a way to bring organizations that offer these resources together in one place.”

Agencies shared materials on workers’ rights, domestic violence, immigration law, disability rights, discrimination, tax help, and more. To encourage engagement, students completed a scavenger hunt that required them to interact with the representatives.

Eleven area organizations—Ayuda, CARECEN, Catholic Charities, DC Employee Justice Center, The Equal Rights Center, Julia M. Toro Law Firm, LEDC, Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, SAFE, Sojourners, and Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs—participated in the May 6 event.

“This event was a win for both the organizations who participated and the Briya students who attended,” Mintz said.

Briya will host a second Know Your Rights event at our 3912 Georgia Ave. location from 10:30-2 on June 11. Stop by to learn about your rights as a DC citizen!

Community Schools

Briya PCS Builds Community Schools Program

As one of six groups awarded DC community school grants for the 2013-14 school year, Briya is ramping up services to meet families’ diverse needs both in and out of the classroom. In January, social worker Stephanie Mintz joined Briya’s staff as community schools coordinator. Stephanie’s role is to engage teachers, staff, students and partners so that the school can act as a hub for family services. This includes facilitating on-site mental health services, referrals to Mary’s Center and outreach to families. Stephanie will also serve Bancroft Elementary School in a similar capacity.

Stephanie has nearly 20 years of community development experience, primarily with the local immigrant population. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked at both Carlos Rosario and the Latin American Youth Center in education and social services. Prior to this, Stephanie was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua. Christie McKay, Executive Director, said, “ We are excited that Stephanie has joined our team as she brings a lot of experience and enthusiasm for building student leadership at the school.”