Rawaa Nancy Albilal,
President and CEO of the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC)
The Arab-American Family Support Center is the founding agency and lead community partner of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), which is getting a new home at the Alloy Block. The new facility is 70 percent larger to house more students and will include a competition-size gymnasium, a large cafeteria, a new library, dedicated art and music rooms, and state-of-the-art science labs.
"Beyond the infrastructure improvements and amenity upgrades, the new KGIA school is going to be a place where members of the Arab American community can gather, visit and connect with one another."
Tell us a little bit about how AAFSC became involved with the Alloy Block?
KGIA has always meant a lot to our organization. Since its founding, we’ve worked closely with the teachers, parents, and students at KGIA to empower our interconnected communities. We also offered after school programming, counseling and tutoring services to the KGIA student body and we would hear complaints from both staff and students about the current building’s poor conditions. Simply put, the current KGIA building just wasn’t equipped to be a modern high school and we saw firsthand how these challenges were compromising the learning environment of our students, along with hurting enrollment. When we heard that 100 Flatbush could deliver a new school, one that would adequately serve the needs of our young people, we gathered our community to rally in support.
What was the planning process like?
When we first heard about the Alloy Block, we decided to conduct a survey to see how many members of our community wanted to see the project cross the finish line. We ended up collecting over 600 signatures and testimonials. But we also knew how important it was that the new school serve the needs of its students and be a place for the Arab American community to call home. I think we were really driven by the spirit of listening and learning, and that guided our whole approach. To make the new KGIA school a reality, all we did was amplify the voices of our constituents — they were the real driving force behind our support for this project.
What does the new Khalil Gibran school mean to your organization and the Arab-American community?
Beyond the infrastructure improvements and amenity upgrades, the new KGIA school is going to be a place where members of the Arab American community can gather, visit and connect with one another. We’ve been in the community for the last 28 years and while our staff is incredibly diverse (we have about 150 employees who speak over 36 different languages), a majority of our staff live in Brooklyn, and we want our staff to be representative of the communities we serve. So, when we opened our newest location at 384 Atlantic Avenue, just a few blocks down from 100 Flatbush, we knew this would set us up for success and allow us to expand our relationships with the KGIA community.