I: Development of
Friends of Island

Friends of Island Academy (FOIA) is a private, not-for-profit organization providing services to youth, up to 21, who are making the transition from detention or incarceration to the community.

Friends of Island Academy and Friends of Rosewood are programs whose namesakes are  derived from two Rikers Island-based Board of Education alternative schools:

The NYC Board of Education school now known as Austin MacCormick - Island Academy began on Rikers as P.S. 616 in September, 1959. DOC Commissioner Anna M. Kross hailed it with five pages of text and photos in her 1959 annual report. One photo (above) showed a visit with Commissioner Kross to Rikers classrooms by former DOC Commissioner Austin MacCormick, second left, a pioneer in promoting inmate education in the United States. See link below to access P.S. 616 history, MacCormick bio and the 1986 Academy dedication program.

  • The Austin MacCormick school that is informally called Island Academy and is attached to the Eric M. Taylor Center, the male inmate sentence-serving correctional facility and
  • Rosewood, the high school in the Rose M. Singer Center, the female inmate correctional facility.

The programs were conceived and created on Rikers Island in 1989 by Barbara Grodd and Norma Green.  Ms. Grodd was the Director of Substance Abuse services for Montefiore Medical Center/Rikers Island Health Services, and Norma Green was the principal of the Island Academy.

These programs were initiated in response to the expressed intent of many of the youngsters at the school. They had a sincere desire to change the course of their futures. 

Riker's female inmate facility, opened in June 1988, was named in honor of Mrs. Rose M. Singer, an original member of the NYC Board of Correction set up in 1957 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner shown (above) swearing her in that Nov. 27. At age 90 and still active with the board and with the City Commission on the Status of Women, the Women's Prison Association and Citizen's Union, Mrs. Singer attended the dedication ceremonies.

Most of these young men were unable to follow through on the discharge service plans that were developed with and for them by their counselors. They needed more intensive guidance in restructuring their lives.

Primary among the obstacles these young men faced when returning to their neighborhoods and the negative pressure of their peers, were the ongoing, vexing problems of poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, chronic unemployment, family dissolution and the obvious widening economic disparity between the most affluent and least affluent sectors of society.

The question for these founders then became how to surmount the obstacles these youngsters confronted so that they could lead more productive lives.

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