He knew all of the kids who grew up in the public housing development, and even their parents.
“If you live inside a NYCHA development for over 10 years, there’s no way, shape or form that you’re not related to someone out there,” Stith said. “A lot of these kids, I knew their parents before their parents were introduced to each other.”
For the last three years, he served as community school director for Zone 126, an educational nonprofit that strives to help students in zip codes 11101, 11102 and 11106. In those three neighborhoods are three NYCHA complexes: Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Astoria houses.
“My job was primarily to deal with the ten schools that we partner with,” he said. “We bring outside partners into the school to fill the needs of the school and the community.”
If a school wants a dance program, Stith will partner with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, for example. If it’s related to pre-kindergarten, he will go to NYU ParentCorps. If they want more programming, he will connect with City Year.
One of Stith’s primary focus points is increasing attendance rates.
“The best ability is availability,” he said. “If you’re not available, it doesn’t matter what you do.”
In the new year, he will take on a new position as organizing director for Zone 126. It will include organizing all events, such as a recent trip he took with students to Wall Street for the opening bell on NASDAQ.
Stith is driven to help students in his local community because he understands where they’re coming from.
“You just know everyone and you want to see them do well,” he said. “It’s a big family. You just want to see them do better when you know how bad things are.”