Professor from Norway tours Newburgh Armory education programs

Professor Jette Steenson from Arctic University in Norway, left, and Michael Rosenberg, dean of SUNY New Paltz's school of education and a Newburgh Armory board member.

Restoring the gymnasium was at the forefront as philanthropist Bill Kaplan and other Newburgh leaders began the work of resurrecting the city’s abandoned armory on William Street in 2010.

Six years later, it is education that is the centerpiece of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.

While kids still sprint up and down the basketball court and pound balls on the indoor soccer field, the Armory has also become a place where children take literacy classes and courses in subjects like art, music, chess and coding.

There are also English and computer classes for adults and workshops for parents of Newburgh school district students.

The transformation, done with partners that include the school district, Mount Saint Mary College and SUNY New Paltz, is not only drawing national attention, but international interest.

On Saturday Norwegian professor Jette Steenson spent the day touring the facility and meeting with Kaplan, members of the Armory board and city officials. Steenson, who teaches at Norway’s Arctic University, came across a conference presentation about the Armory’s programs and decided to visit.

Among her takeaways, she said, were that the Armory was a place where children felt accepted and gained self-confidence. She also liked that the Armory’s education programs serve as a training ground for students in teaching programs at local colleges.

“It’s very impressive,” she said.

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