LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kathy Goldstein

Position: High School Teacher, College Discovery Advisor
School: Bronx Collaborative High School
School District: New York City Department of Education #10
City, State: Bronx, NY

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Music that Describes Kathy


Kathy Goldstein was nominated by a family member, Laila Goldstein-Rosenfeld.

"Do you have proof of family income from 2019? 1040 tax returns would be perfect."

"It's ok if dad doesn't have a social security number. The FAFSA application is yours. Your parents' status will not impact your aid or admission."

"I promise I don't work for immigration."

"Have you considered going away? Does mom know you're applying to college?"

"It's ok, don't give up, catch up."

"Send me a screenshot of the error."

"Text me when you're done."
 
"These are some of the more popular phrases I heard my mom repeat during Zoom school," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "My brothers and I would often joke at the dinner table about how she could get her students to give up all kinds of sensitive information. She quickly retorted, 'It's not easy. They have to trust me. It takes a long time to build that trust. I have to prove I work for them, not against them.' I was glad to finally see (and hear) what my mom did. I knew she was a teacher, but now I know she does so much more."
 
When Mrs. Goldstein, affectionately known as "Ms. G," is not in her classroom providing all five sections of seniors instruction on how to build a college list and draft an essay properly, she's usually in her office late into the evening with the same seniors polishing supplemental writing responses, completing federal and state financial aid forms, and helping them apply for whatever scholarships they can dig up. She calculates and translates financial award letters and breaks down how one can actually afford to go away to a $60,000-a-year school.

"I had never heard of a FAFSA before, but without answering the 103 questions, my mom's students would never be able to afford college," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "Almost all of my mom's students will be the first in their family to graduate high school. She says their families live on what we pay in taxes. I couldn't understand this concept until I started working."

"My mom often secures snacks for her after-school office hours and acquires donated button-down shirts for students attending scholarship interviews," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "One year, I helped her unload bags from a  coordinated effort to collect gowns, dresses, tuxedos, shoes, and accessories from community members' recent sweet sixteens and bridal parties. She planned to redistribute these gorgeous, barely worn outfits to her students so they could attend senior prom in style and with dignity."
 
"One time, my mom was on a two-night bus trip with her students visiting six college campuses. She explained how important it was for BIPOC, low-income students to see what a campus looks like," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "She continued to explain how she and her principal purposely planned four simultaneous different routes so students could choose. The trips were fully funded and mandatory, not reward-based or first come, first served. Talk about true equity. I didn't fully get it until she shared how many students applied to the schools they visited and how, when they returned home, her students focused more on school and attendance to boost their grades and increase their chances of being accepted. All because they physically attended an info session! The trips created buzz and contributed to creating a college culture for younger grades. The sophomores and juniors are already trying to figure out next year's itinerary."
 
Mrs. G is very involved in her students' lives, often texting past bedtime to follow up, remind, check in, and provide words of comfort when no one else in their family does. She has an excellent track record. Her goal is always to ensure 100% of her graduating seniors have a solid plan for after graduation, including a way to finance it. So far, she's at 96%! Even in the summer, she works with her students to ensure the matriculation process is complete.

"I didn't know that was a thing," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "Why would someone not show up for the first day of college after being accepted? She explained why it wasn't so simple and how 'summer melt' is a significant cause of decreased enrollment. She showed me the multiple checklists she makes with her students so they can build their executive function and feel organized, grounded, and in control of their future. She prepares them in so many ways. Together, they review maps of where specific buildings are, create study schedules based on their breaks between registered courses, and go over what to do when they might feel like an imposter and how to approach a professor for help. She ensures her students do not get charged additional fees for having their own health insurance, and she even negotiates the aid already offered. She explained that what might not seem like a lot of money to a working person feels like a mint to someone living on food stamps, and more and more often, students drop out because they need help figuring out how to pay that balance. She shares stories of alumni who return desperately seeking wisdom on re-enrolling and creating payment plans for money owed. I appreciate and respect what my mom is doing for many young people. She's a real cheerleader spreading hope and optimism through options."
 
Mrs. G's newest project is trying to build an alumni network. Since starting this program in 2017, she will have three cohorts who will have graduated college. Trying to keep in touch with as many as possible, she delights in stories of those starting graduate school, families, and businesses. Many want to come back to support current students, speak to classes, or mentor those who need it.

"When I pause to think about how many lives my mom has impacted, I should also include the siblings and future families of her graduates," said Goldstein-Rosenfeld. "In doing this, I realize that a lot of people and a lot of lives have been changed. Mom likes to call it Justice Work, not just work."


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