Harriet Tubman Democratic High School

New York State Accredited High School

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Elizabeth Carivan, Director/Teacher

Elizabeth attended the Albany Free School as an elementary and middle school student; later working there as an intern and teacher. She also grew up as a child member of the Free School Community. This experience, combined with her twelve years of work at a YMCA residential camp, instilled in her a deep love of working with children in a strong and supportive community. After her four years at Hofstra University studying English Literature and History, Elizabeth stayed on Long Island to pursue a career in administration. She is thrilled to be a part of this wonderful school, and to have found a job which naturally combines so many of the things she enjoys. Elizabeth loves reading, film, theater, contemplating humanity, laughing, and spending time with her family and friends .

Walter Fick, Teacher

Walter Fick is coming to Harriet Tubman Free School as a parent of two sons who have both graduated from The Free School and now attend HTFS. He has been a strong supporter of free school education and spent the last few years volunteering at HTFS by doing maintenance and repairs, chaperoning field trips, and teaching a film class. Walter has nearly completed his English studies at SUNY Albany, and later plans to continue his formal academic work by getting his Masters in education. He believes learning is a life-long process and is never restricted to the classroom, so he is excited to participate more fully in the democratic education system. Walter loves the outdoors and can be found camping, fishing, and hiking among many other interests. He also loves to work with wood and is currently transforming a 175 year old farm house into a home for his family as he continues to become more self-sufficient with his homestead of goats, chickens, and gardens.

Laura Greco, Teacher

Laura Greco first became involved with HTDHS by teaching sociology as a volunteer, and during that time discovered a great love for teaching. She received her BA in American Studies and Sociology from Marlboro College and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Information Science and History at SUNY. She believes that students should be active participants in their educations and feels that HTDHS truly enables young adults to develop and pursue their academic aspirations.

Alejandra Pereyra, Intern

Alejandra Pereyra- a proud EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) student at SUNY Albany currently working towards her BA. She is an English and Journalism double major. Alejandra has always been very active in educating herself as well as others- she has worked as a peer educator for planned parenthood, has participated in Angelo Del Toro’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute, debating on bills concerning the hispanic population in a mock assembly here in our capitol, and has even organized a march opposing bill HR4437-a bill when she was 16.

Alejandra received a public school education and had no idea alternative schools such as HTDHS were ever an option. “It was love at first interview”- she states. You can find Alejandra at HTDHS this year teaching Health, Italian, Creative Writing, and English. Although Alejandra is eager to teach the students- she is more excited to learn from them. “That’s the beauty of this school and just a democratic education in general-it’s a REAL focus on the needs of the student and by doing so, not only is each school different, every year is different.”

Amanda Uddin, Intern

Amanda Uddin is the the oldest of three siblings. She is a Bronx native and has lived in the same neighborhood her whole life. She is of Puerto Rican, Italian, and Bengali descent. Amanda is currently a senior at the University at Albany majoring in English and minoring in film. Some of her hobbies include writing (poems, short stories, screen plays) as well as history. Specifically the history of New York. She hopes to one day be able to teach at her old high school in the Bronx, and create a program in her home neighborhood to help deal with the issues in racism they face.

Neal Berntson, Math Teacher

Neal Berntson first began his classroom experience as a substitute teacher for the City School District of Albany and enrolled in graduate school at the Empire State College Master of Arts in Teaching program. He has been a teaching assistant for the Guilderland High School math department, has taught in Otsego County, and is now in his second year at HTDHS. While living in Austin, he earned a Radio, Television, and Film degree from The University of Texas. Neal has been a drummer for several years and, since returning to the area, he has performed as an actor at The Ghent Playhouse in Columbia County. “The small class size at Harriet Tubman allows for a unique pedagogical style where tutoring and student-centered learning create a hybrid of lesson plans. I find the students here to be very mature and that they know they are in a privileged place. They respect the sanctity of this learning environment which further empowers my teaching skills.”

Chris Mercogliano, Math Teacher

Chris Mercogliano recently concluded a thirty-five-year career at the Albany Free School, the oldest inner-city alternative school in the United States. His essays, commentaries, and reviews have appeared in numerous newspapers, journals, and magazines, as well as in six anthologies. He is also the author of Making It Up As We Go Along, the Story of the Albany Free School (Heinemann 1998), Teaching the Restless, One School’s Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed (Beacon Press 2004), How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work (Oxford Village Press 2006), and In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness (Beacon Press 2007).

Advisory Board:
Nancy Ost
Chris Mercogliano
Mike Berry
Larry Becker
Tom McPheeters
Ellen Becker
Betsy Mercogliano

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    Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is the only democratic educational institution for teens in the Capital District. We offer a supportive and personal learning environment for young adults from diverse backgrounds. Our staff strives to teach young adults how to think for themselves by encouraging critical discussions and respecting student input into their educational process. Our students learn self-motivation and, in the process, discover independence and self-reliance.

    HTDHS is a not-for-profit private school. We are committed to maintaining a diverse learning community. Scholarships are available and no one is turned away simply for lack of funds. Please see our Admissions tab for more information.

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