The proprietor of one of the most famous bookstores of all time, George Whitman, once said, “All the world is my school.” There is something to be said about the significance of embracing humanity as a form of education that can be equated to learning the basic tools of reading, writing and arithmetic.
For educator Daniel Brink-Washington, this was something learned at a young age that has since been implemented into the start-up of Buffalo Commons Charter School set to open in the fall of 2021 for kindergarten and first grade.
Brink-Washington stated, “I had the good fortune of growing up in Boston and going to a diverse school; it was a place where we had a wealth of different cultures and socioeconomic statuses. It was really this magical experience where I can say without a doubt that going to school in that environment felt very human. I knew even then that where you go to school matters, who you go to school with matters, and what you do at school matters.”
Yet his path didn’t originally find him as an educator. It wasn’t until he sat at his last casting call in New York City, after several years of chasing an acting career, that he finally had that wake-up call moment. “I remember sitting in a casting call, with a bunch of other guys that looked sort of like me, and just having this epiphany of, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ At that moment, I knew I wanted to be of service in some more palpable way – that’s what led me into teaching.”
He stepped into the realm of education having no intention of it becoming a lifelong passion, until his love for community, and making a difference in the lives of young people undeniably became his life’s purpose. Through work at schools in Brooklyn he gained experience as the director of student support services for a group of three diverse-by-design schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and worked in developing all of the programming and supervising all of the faculty.
Upon moving to Buffalo in 2015, Brink-Washington continued his career as an educator.
We moved to Buffalo because of the quality of life, to be close to our family, and honestly, to be impactful in a community that we thought was on the brink of something really exciting.
He took a role at Elmwood Village Charter School, and later accepted a fellowship through the Diverse Charter School Coalition, which is a national group of schools that are committed to intentional diversity. Through that experience, he was able to learn from experts in the field and gain insight into what top notch diverse-by-design schools look like; thus sparking the idea for Buffalo Commons Charter School.
“We’re a homegrown independent mom and pop kind of operation. Certainly the national fellowship helped, but the members of the board and I are community members that have a diversity of expertise and backgrounds that reflect the same thing we want for our students and our faculty.”
The school’s purpose is to bring the community together, and ultimately change the life trajectory of students across Buffalo. Buffalo Commons has the tools needed to not only prepare students academically, but also shift the focus back on preparing students for life fulfillment as well.
“We want to switch the notion of school to be more focused on the development of purpose and fulfillment, where having strong academic skills is a necessary condition, but not the end goal. Education at Buffalo Commons is about something bigger than just how I did on a test, or what grades I got, or what college I got into.”
Buffalo Commons provides the opportunity for students to come together across lines of difference, build relationships with one another, and work together on a meaningful curriculum that draws on the real-world challenges faced by our community.
“When we think about the future of our city, doing this work with young people and their families lines us up for something really special that we’re placing an investment in now. Imagine what that investment looks like 10 years from now; Buffalo could be a completely different kind of city.”
Education is a journey of self-discovery, and should bring about the recognition that in addition to our wonderful differences, we all share a common humanity. Buffalo Commons Charter School is changing the future of our city one student at time, and it is providing opportunity for the community to connect in ways like never before. With the school’s core beliefs of diversity, equity and inclusion there is a place for every kind of student.
Buffalo Commons will be open for kindergarten and first grade this fall, and families should apply now as space is limited. Visit the school’s website for more information.