Keeping Up With Cooke – Heartwarming News for the Holidays!

Internship Corner

Spotlight: Wild Bird Fund

Who Cares for Rescued Wild Birds in New York City? Cooke Students!

With more than 200 species of birds visiting Central Park every year, you may wonder what happens to wild birds when they get sick. If they’re lucky, some concerned New Yorker may notice a sick bird and want to take them to a veterinary hospital for treatment. But where should they go? And who cares for them as they recover? You may be surprised to learn the answer: Cooke students! As part of Cooke’s internship program, and in partnership with the Wild Bird Fund, Trinity and Matt (two Cooke high schoolers) travel to the Upper West Side each week to help care for injured and sick birds.

Trinity and Matt clean the window display bird cages, put out food and fresh water for the birds and even rehabilitate frightened or agitated birds that need a loving touch. On a recent trip to the Wild Bird Fund, Trinity and Matt took part in the general care and rehab of a wide variety of bird species, including: pigeons, ducklings, geese, turkeys (yes, several were saved right before Thanksgiving Day!), squirrels, chickens, turtles, falcons, and even swans! As Matt explains, the cages need to be cleaned out often to keep up with the active birds. “You need to concentrate on your work, and it gets loud in here with all the birds flying around.” When referring to a large black-feathered chicken, he said, “You should have seen what he did to his cage. He annihilated the paper liner, ripped it to shreds!” After a brief debate, the students informed us that the pigeons are feistier than the doves.

Before Matt and Trinity started their internship, they had a mini bird-care tutorial from Beth Radeke, their Community Inclusion Assistant (CIA), who accompanies them to the internship. Beth has been supporting Cooke students at the Wild Bird Fund for the last four years. Prior to starting their internship, Trinity and Matt used a plush toy pigeon (which sits on Beth’s desk) to learn how to hold birds; they also went over the rules for handling (or not handling the wild birds, which will go back to the wild after their rehab). Pointing to the wild goose that was walking around behind him, Matt said, “We don’t interact with the wild birds because we want them to be wild and not used to being touched by people.”

Trinity and Matt also learn to use a planning app that guides them through their various job tasks. Trinity said she wanted this internship job at the Wild Bird Fund because she likes to work with animals, and it seemed like a fun experience. “I was nervous when I started because I never did this before,” she said. But she soon learned to love the experience of handling pigeons and doves. Both students talk like bird experts and take pride in all the job tasks they do on behalf of the animals.

The Wild Bird Fund hosts Cooke interns every year. Director Rita McMahon says that Cooke students are particularly talented at being gentle and respectful of the animals in their care. She recalled how Cooke students gently held and interacted with roosters that had been rescued from a cockfighting ring. “Cooke students were gentle and loving, and it helped the birds calm down. Their caring became so apparent in their work with the roosters. They have great patience too.” Rita also praised Cooke CIAs, saying they provided support and structure for the students so that all work tasks get done in an efficient and timely way.

 Trinity and Matt can now add animal care to their list of accomplishments, and they will continue to build their knowledge of bird species, including some exotic breeds, through their work at the Wild Bird Fund. This internship experience has also taught them about work expectations, how to follow a schedule and tools they can use to stay organized. Best of all, they are included as part of a community of bird lovers and advocates on a mission to rescue wildlife in NYC!


Ring Day Highlights

Ring Day is a very special event in which Cooke seniors are presented with their class rings. As part of this touching ceremony, students share their hopes and dreams for the future with the Cooke community. Parents, staff and peers cheer them on and wish them well as they reach the half-way point in their senior year! 

Special Education in New York City:

Understanding the Landscape

Information on special education in New York City is never easy to navigate. There is little quantitative data to highlight the 5W’s (who, what, where, when and why) needed to evaluate effective and quality programming. However, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools (Steinhart School, New York University) issued a report last August to examine the state of public special education in New York City. Click here to learn more.

It is one of the best analysis on how, and to whom, special education services are being provided. Understanding who students with disabilities are, and where they are being served, is fundamental to improving outcomes. This report is an eye-opening look at the current status of special education in New York City.

One major finding of the study was that one in five students is diagnosed with a disability in New York City (the nationwide average is 14%). Another finding: the most prevalent disability classifications among students were learning disabilities and speech and language impairments. Take a look at the report for more details.

One of the caveats of this study is that the City’s database (Special Education Student Information System, SESIS) has faced numerous challenges, including problems with data storage, system functionality, and performance, since its launch in 2011. According to the report: “These technical difficulties have led to incomplete and inaccurate data.”

Thus, the number of students receiving special education services could be even higher than the numbers mentioned in the report. The system is being scrapped as we speak. The study used supplemental information from demographic sources, census data, and data from the American Community Survey.    

Look Ahead

• December 23 – January 1: Winter Break – SCHOOL CLOSED


• January 10:  Alumni Event – For more information, email:

• January 20:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – SCHOOL CLOSED

• January 23: Grammar School Open House

• January 24: Alumni Event – For more information, email:

• January 27: Cooke Staff Professional Development – NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS


Follow Us: 

Copyright © *2019* *Cooke School and Institute*, All rights reserved.