The following article contains excerpts and photos from the PSOLI website and their 25th Gala Journal by permission of the Director
Twenty five years ago, as newcomers to Long Island, Eric and Evangelina Jacobson had a vision for a new kind of school–born of a belief in a Neo-Humanist education. A donation of $30,000 and a 5-year old were all that was needed to open the doors at The Progressive School of Long Island.
They did their research. And they had the trust of friends and strangers who handed over not only money, but their children. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since 1985, Eric and Evangelina have been perfecting the art of teaching. The school has consistently ranked in the top for state-sponsored tests. Over 250 students have graduated into local public and private middle and high schools. Many communities have benefited from the school through their volunteer programs.
Today, Eric remains as the Director, and Evangelina remains as teacher of Art and Crafts. While the school has grown from 5 to 125 students, it retains the warm and loving family atmosphere of its earliest days.
On September 1, 2006, the school opened a middle school next door, thereby allowing it to offer classes up to the 8th grade. This “school house,” acquired entirely through donations and fundraising, added 7 new classrooms and a campus atmosphere to the PSOLI experience. The middle school achieved solar electric power in September of 2008.
by Eric Jacobson, PSOLI Director
Mind flows in two main directions, outwardly and inwardly.
When the mental flow is outward, it is directed through the senses into the material world. The information received is then processed by the brain. This information is limited to the perceptual ability of the senses, or the instrument being used to enhance their wavelength receptivity. Therefore, the learning is also limited and imperfect.
When the mental flow is inward, it moves into the realm of consciousness, an infinite territory that remains largely unexplored, and underutilized.
In this time, in our culture, that inward flow has been neglected, leading to an imbalance in human development, an excess of materialism. This continues in spite of the fact that many of our most celebrated achievers in human history speak about intuition, inspiration, imagination, spirituality, and dreams as the source for their accomplishments. This truth is also evident to all educators as it takes the form of reduced imagination, concentration, self-regulation, and inspiration in their students.
Neohumanist education seeks a balanced development that emphasizes both mental flows working in harmony.
Today, I see the result of practicing this in my personal life. Twenty-five years ago my inward mental flow tapped into the imagination, concentration and inspiration to open Progressive School of Long Island. Most of that information was processed in the space of about ten minutes. Twenty odd years later, my outward mental flow was finally able to materialize this vision with the help of countless others. Along the way, it was that inner flow which strengthened and sustained me.
If we continue to neglect that inward longing of the mind for limitlessness, we will stagnate, and ultimately degenerate. So I ask you all, parents, teachers, and friends, to contemplate developing your own inner flow, so that your children can learn from your example. I also ask you to support our attempts to develop that flow in the following ways:
- Try to understand and support what we are doing
- Limit materialism and encourage the joys that spring from within
- Practice service to animals and plants, as well as to people
- Get your child to school on time for meditation
After 15 years of interviews with students who graduated PSOLI, their responses have been compiled, revealing a clear pattern. There are 13 qualities that these young people in high-school, college and beyond are reportedly observing in themselves and their peers from PSOLI. Although these qualities may exist in others too, they are seen in amazing frequency and degree in those who benefitted from our foundation. We call these qualities “intangible gains” because they are not easily quantified, yet they are the engine that drives academic and personal growth. The first and most frequently reported of these qualities is service. Our alumni habitually care about the world around them. They feel a sense of responsibility for utilizing their personal resources wisely and unselfishly. The result of this quality is that they are often engaged in service initiatives. They garner attention, publicity, and college interest in the process. They learn to network with others, and also develop many personal contacts. This opens myriad doors of opportunity.
The alumni reflect that this characteristic was nurtured at PSOLI though the following special activities:
- STUVOL (2 year course in student volunteering for 7th and 8th graders)
- service based learning lessons
- very broad social studies curriculum with a Neohumanist approach (this develops critical thinking and the ability to step outside one’s preconceptions based on geo- and socio-identity)
- being educated with love
- having interesting and unusual guest speakers
“…being self-serving beings to beings of service.”
At the Progressive School, students are taught to walk through life with a mentality that leads them to ask themselves, “How can I help? What can I do for the world?” This mindset is fostered through many activities at the school, including the onslaught of charitable causes that are given attention on a daily basis — earthquake victims, children with terminal illnesses, environmental conservation etc. Below are several anecdotes, highlighting some of the things children, have done while at the Progressive School — things that have made a tangible difference.
When a PSOLI graduate was volunteering in Nicaragua, one of his English students was hit by a car. The doctor found that she had broken her leg in several places. She needed three metal pins, each one costing more than most Nicaraguans earn in the course of months. Her family, even borrowing money, could not afford even one of the pins, so her leg would have to be amputated. He returned home and told Eric about the circumstance. When members of the Progressive School community heard about this girl, they were touched to help. Within days they got together the money to pay for her leg to be set properly and because of the generous spirit of PSOLI, she can walk today. Prashanta Jacobson also works through AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team) to help in the devastation in Haiti.
Empowered with the sense that she could organize and implement her own project, Rachel Obergh took on the endeavor of restoring the ponies from the 1912 Nunley’s Carousel. Rachel organized elementary schools to adopt one of the animals, and to raise $2,000 to restore their pony. The Pennies for Ponies project has brought in over $94,000 for the restoration and continued maintenance of Nunley’s Carousel. Rachel got to experience the process of making a big idea happen.
Each year, the fifth grade class runs a store, in which they sell baked goods, books, trinkets etc, and each year, as a group, the class decides on a charitable cause to support with the proceeds. One year, the class adopted a single mother and her three children, and set out to help this family, as well as a homeless man who was ‘living’ near the home of one of the students. Lorraine, one of the fifth grade teachers recalls that this was a particularly meaningful endeavor, especially because the students took the money they had raised, and went shopping together to purchase the items that would be given to the family and the homeless man.
Quotes from Students, Parents and Teachers
“I like the fact that we get to go outside to do science experiments, instead of just reading from a textbook. We get a lot of hands on activities.” -Kai, 4th grade
“We looked for a school that would provide our son with more than just academics. The Progressive School teaches the whole child and teaches humanity. It is a school that lets each child shine individually in whatever area he gravitates towards, and we found that in PSOLI. Our son loves going to school. What more is there to say?” -Michelle, 2nd grade mom
“Through sharing daily moments with my students at the Progressive School over these years, with each individual I have been entrusted and enabled to participate in and observe a supreme human experience – the amazing process of self discovery. This, nurtured, encouraged, and cultivated, has in my estimation, offered forth to the world in every case an inexhaustible fire evident in the hearts, minds, and accomplishments of all of our incredible graduates.” Mark, PSOLI Middle School Teacher
“Year after year, Mr. Eric Jacobson has proven himself to be a gifted educator and principal. For 18 years, I have placed my utmost trust in him and in PSOLI to give my children the most outstanding education, and my trust has been rewarded many times over. The school’s philosophy has always been to stress good citizenship, high moral values, and community service. The high caliber of both the students and the staff at PSOLI would make a community proud.” –Susan Z. Mendelsohn, M.D., parent to 5 children who all attended PSOLI
“While PSOLI offers an education that is closer to the heart, Eric does not sacrifice the quality of academic content. This is evident through the many academic achievements and social accomplishments the students have earned over the years. Many students achieve top rankings in their graduating high schools and are accepted to top universities. In addition, a number of students, because of the principles they were taught at PSOLI, have gone on to volunteer and raise awareness of important social issues in their local and global community.”
“I love everything about Progressive. I love the teachers, everything we learn, especially Science and all of my friends and teachers!” -Alex, 2nd grade
“PSOLI is more than a school. It is a family environment in which we don’t have class, but rather we learn from each other, grow from each other and are as one. PSOLI is a home to me. It has helped me grow and given me what is necessary to continue learning and teaching others. Eric, Benay and every single person involved in helping PSOLI has my thanks and is my family.” – Nathan, 8th grade
“I can sum up the highlight of my seven years so far at this school. Eric Jacobson. He was my fourth grade teacher for science and social studies. I learned more things than I thought possible from him. He taught in a fun and interactive way and encouraged us to enjoy learning.” – Paulina, 6th Grade Student
“In my 35 years of teaching, in various public and private settings, I have never been witness to such a conducive atmosphere for education as the one I have seen each day that I have been present in your school. There is such respect and affection, that a free exchange of ideas seems easy and natural. The remarkable energy that permeates the school stems largely from the devotion and commitment which you have managed to inspire in your staff. Such camaraderie and support is so rare–Progressive School is verily a spiritual haven for its teachers and its students. I feel honored to share in a part of it.” Herbert Rothgarber, Music Professor
“…You have made a difference in my life…”