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NYer Of The Week: Sharon Wilkins Helps Students Connect The Past With The Future

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This week's New Yorker is shaping the next generation by teaching students to keep an eye on the past. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.

Sharon Wilkins creates a way for students of history to get their hands on their favorite subject, literally.

"We hear so many things about young people who are not succeeding, not achieving, or who people assume are not succeeding or not achieving," Wilkins says. "In the more than 100 students that I've been privileged to work with in this particular program, there are so many success stories."

As the deputy historian in Manhattan, Wilkins pairs high school students with internships at historical institutions, where they work with original artifacts and documents.

She's been doing it for eight years. This year, she reached out to more than 60 historical sites to find an opportunity for every young person.

"Some of these buildings, I pass by every day on my way to school," says intern Roy Xu. "Like, 90 Chambers is right by my school."

Xu is a student at Stuyvesant High School who spent the summer at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, studying its real estate history.

He found some surprises in the letters and leases, like who was the superintendent at St. Michael's Cemetery.

"The first one was a woman, and in the times, that was kind of rare because this was the 1850s," he says.

Jean Ballard Terepka, the archivist at St. Michael's, is grateful for Roy's help, and to Sharon, who made it all possible.

"She's passionate in her certainty that history is underserved in our schools, should be better served there and must be better served in the community," Terepka says.

Wilkins does it all as a volunteer, with a higher purpose in mind.

"That kind of perspective really helps them to become good citizens and to develop a sense of social responsibility, which they certainly will need, because this program is geared toward people ages 14 to 18, and in a very short time, they'll be the voting public," she says.

So, for connecting the past with the future, one student at a time, Sharon Wilkins is our New Yorker of the Week.

For More Information

To find out more about the internship program, call the Manhattan borough president's office at 212-669-8300.

Nominate a New Yorker

If you'd like to nominate someone to be NY1's New Yorker of the Week, send an email describing their qualifications to nyer@ny1.com or mail a letter to:

NY1 News
New Yorker of the Week
75 Ninth Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10011

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