One of her students says of Gale Greenstein, “Gale is the closest thing to a superhero that I know.” As superhero, founder and coordinator of the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, an anti-violence program that focuses on the creation of healthy relationships for youth through education and intervention, Gale has created a haven of community, togetherness and laughter, within a school marked by violence and challenged by high dropout rates.
In “The RAPP Room,” young people find purpose, direction, and power by learning to express their emotions through drama, participating in trips and outings, working with mentors, or taking on service learning activities. Here, no one is a stranger, and everyone wants to talk to Gale. Students and staff alike cite her insistence on respect and tolerance, as well as her boundless energy, as foundational to her ability to build a space that is both welcoming and safe for all.
Belonging is key to Gale’s program, and she forges this sense of family through recognition of the youth who pass through her doors – the RAPP Family Tree is adorned with photos of all the students, and surrounded by student artwork and signs of academic accomplishment.
Gale’s reach extends deep into the school, and far beyond. She is a leader among her colleagues, spearheading collaborative projects, speaking on behalf of the program, and training new coordinators. Gale doesn’t simply push the envelope – she re-invents it, surpassing expectations to ensure that young people feel loved, wanted, and respected. She has taken her students kayaking, rock climbing, and to see “The Color Purple” on Broadway. She has brought in guests to teach them to tango, to meditate, to journal, and more – all with the goal of increasing their awareness of their inherent value and strengths, and encouraging them to carry that awareness into all of their relationships.
By action and by example, Gale sets the bar high for her students, for her colleagues, and for the field of afterschool. As one of her students explains, “Gale always does things that seem impossible. She creates magic and makes us believe that we can do the same.”