Ascension School

New York, NY

The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Funds First NYC Reading Room at Ascension School

A New York First!

The first Ben Carson Reading Room to be established in New York City now has its home at the Ascension School, a private Catholic educational institution, which has been serving the Upper West Side and Manhattan Valley communities for over 100 years. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, which marked the beautiful, sunny day of the opening.

With a microphone in hand, Principal Omar Ortiz opened the ceremony in front of the elevated curtained stage at the front of the gym/auditorium.  Over the past two years, the students learned to respond to his presence with immediate silence, and a hush fell over the crowd.

Principal Ortiz opened with a warm welcome to all, and after a succinct introduction, he introduced the board chairman of the Manhattan Regional Catholic Schools, Father Gregory Chisholm.

After greeting the assembly, Father Chisholm asked everyone to stand while he prayed for “all blessings on the proceedings.”


Principal Ortiz spoke of the interesting journey the organizers experienced to make reading more fun for students.  Afterwards, he introduced a second grade class, with about 25 students in total.

These young students delighted us with their precisely, well-projected, recited version of “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer (“I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree…”).  With the girls in their blue-and-white-plaid pleated jumpers over snowy white blouses and the boys in their navy v-neck sweaters over white shirts with khaki trousers, the children presented the poem with expressive, coordinated hand and arm motions.  They continued with the song, with their teacher, Ms. Ermino, who was playing the keyboard. Their dramatic performance was even more poignant than the poem recitation!  Reaching up to the sky on the last phrase, “..but only God can make a tree,” they ended the song by slowly lowering their arms and bringing their hands in front of their chests in a prayer stance.

The remarks brought by Andrew Sabin, founder of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, included introductions of the foundation’s executive director, Nancy Wendell, as well as his son, Shawn Sabin, a trustee and board member.  He continued by affirming the historical importance of the occasion – being the first Ben Carson Reading Room, not only in the city of New York, but in the entire state! Moving forward, he hopes that this reading room will be the model for many others in the state of New York.  The plethora of opportunities that students will encounter while utilizing the room furthered the excitement of the attendees, as their imaginations traveled with Mr. Sabin on his descriptive, verbal journey.

In closing, Mr. Sabin asked the students if they have ever visited the countryside or gone on nature walks. The dismal response prompted him to generously offer another unique opportunity.  He explained that he has a nature museum not far from the school, on Long Island.  He specified that he would not only pay for the students to visit the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, but would also cover the bus transportation as well!

Mr. Sabin was certainly a hard act to follow! Afterwards, Candy Carson took the stage. She reiterated how fortunate the students were to have so many people who cared about them and their futures, by creating this special place for them.  After acknowledging the efforts of those who worked hard to create this uniquely designed place, she asked the students one of her favorite questions, “How many of you ever get bored?”  The number of hands that went up was many, but the answers to her follow up questions were even more encouraging. She asked, “Do you have to bored?” and “What can you do to keep from being bored?” The students responded with a resounding “READ”, demonstrating their understanding of the special impact of their new “tool.”  Along with the amazing power of the brain, Candy spoke of the potential that each student houses in this relatively small organ, while illustrating a story about one of Dr. Carson’s hemispherectomy patients.

kids with THINK BIG banner

Lastly, the sixth grade boys and girls presented the THINK BIG acrostic.  In groups of three, each group holding a letter, the students recited the meaning behind the letter.

In closing, the last part of the ceremony was a video, which chronicled the journey of developing the special place for the children. The video started with the students arriving and climbing to their class’ floor. Then, you saw educators, students and volunteers painting, decorating, and arranging furniture and books in their respective places. Special friends in attendance were Clyde Vanel, Lou Bremer, Amie James, Gigi Noyes, and Elizabeth Toomey.

After the program, everyone trekked to the top floor of the school, where the reading room was located. All together, the students, educators and guests yelled “3, 2, 1” as the ribbon was snipped by Mr. Sabin, Mrs. Carson and Father Chisholm. The cutting of the ribbon officially marked the opening of the first Ben Carson Reading Room established in the state of New York!

ribbon cutting

reading cornerWhile entering the room, the first thing that catches your attention is the overabundance of books! Tall bookcases on the right wall and 40-inch-high room-dividing cases on the left wall held books of all interests imaginable. The floor at the base of the bookcases sported circular rugs in alternating earth tones of blue, red and green. At the end of the circular rug was a larger, very colorful rectangular rug with children of all nationalities holding hands and encircling the earth in the center, on a rich turquoise background.

Situated by the children-around-the-world rug is a fold-able cubby seat!  Please see the photos to get a full appreciation for this unique structure. The cubby seats are for one or two students to climb in and get comfy, while becoming fully absorbed in the imagery of a book!

The mural over the tall bookcases helps illustrate the prevailing theme of reaching high, soaring, and always striving towards  greater heights, with the sky not being the limit, but a pathway TO the limit!  The walls between the bookshelves were painted by the students in a light blue background with bright yellow stars in all sizes.

boy reading

The second section of the room was also lined with bookcases. It had an octagon-shaped book case in the center to maximize browsing for students to discover what special book they wanted to read for the day! Student artwork, paintings, as well as 3-dimensional creations grace the room in various places rounding out the wonderful ambiance of this special haven for kids.

Special thanks go to the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation for making all of this possible!



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