Although the YASE program has been made possible by the contributions of countless individuals, it’s not stretching the truth to say it would not exist were it not for the efforts of Ilana Artman. She was, quite literally, there at the beginning.
“It began with Isaiah Robinson who was the president of the New York City Board of Education. He went to Israel and came back enthusiastic about the opportunity to motivate our students, to explore different cultures and enhance their academic careers. Basically, the program was organized by myself, and the first group that I collaborated with on YASE was the New York Board of Education.
The idea and basic philosophy, was to select students who exhibit leadership qualities…either by assuming such roles in their schools or community. The selection process was conducted by the Board and in 1977, the students fundraised and some worked to supplement the cost. It was so successful – we received letters from the American Embassy saying they had never seen a group that had so learned how to be American.
After an evaluation of the program, Isaiah Robinson suggested that we investigate the possibility of developing a curriculum about Israel. This is when I met Dr. Charlotte Frank.”
With Dr. Frank onboard, Artman saw the possibilities to reach new heights.
“Since we worked so well together, I began to think of ways to expand the program – how to institutionalize it – so that its impact was felt beyond the individual. My first goal was the inclusion of school districts across the U.S. Two things accomplished this: Isaiah put Dr. Frank in contact with the Council of the Great City Schools. We met with their leadership and the seeds of expansion grew.”
A wide-range of individuals and groups shared the vision for what would become the YASE program, and Artman helped coordinate the partnership between Israel and the U.S.
“We had the cooperation of the Council of the Great City Schools which involved the school districts along with the support of the Public Council in Israel. While sourcing funding for the initiative, we presented the pilot program to the U.S. Information Agency, headed by Joseph Califano, Jr., former United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. They agreed to sponsor the program implementing it in 1978.”
With the initial momentum, the program was launched.
“This program became a staple,” Artman emphasizes. “In 1979 we sent the first national group, from nine cities (five students per city) to Israel. It was a very special experience!”
Those early years were unique is several ways, according to Artman.
“Also, inviting Charlotte to join the board of directors in the ‘80s was significant. Once the program became an annual occurrence, there was cooperation across the board. The school superintendents and state education officials’ delegation also became a bi-annual delegation.”
Over time, educators began to see the value in the program. Artman recalls contributions of other key individuals.
“The program continued with many superintendents being added, including the late New York City School Chancellor Dr. Richard Green, who was also an AIFL board member. Together with Dr. Green who retired, and Dr. Frank, who was involved on the board we created the Partners for Global Education Committee which she chaired. The Council of the Great City Schools had its governing committee, so there was continuity.
“These were the beginning years of YASE, and I’m pleased to see that it has grown into a remarkably wonderful and valuable program.”