Since 2003, Eileen Johnson and her team have been bringing master florists and students from all over the world to FlowerSchool New York. Their mission is to “help people live a richer life through flowers,” and they certainly succeed. The school offers classes for enthusiasts and professionals, at all levels and focuses. Eileen compared her school to a cooking school, where master chefs come to share their secrets. FlowerSchool does the same thing, just with a different aspect of entertaining and hospitality - flowers! The professional program here is really central, with weeks of training, often involving internships with local florists and study abroad trips to places like France and Holland.
This industry has often been very singular, with florists usually working alone to hone their own unique style. FlowerSchool has created a community of florists - among both teachers and students - out of previous competitors. Many unexpected paths cross here. When we visited FlowerSchool, we met students from Mexico, Brazil, Trinidad, and South Korea - all in the same class. One could only imagine what kind of beautiful arrangements could emerge from the intermingling of so many unique cultures. A peaceful place of creativity and collaboration, FlowerSchool New York is truly a side street gem.
Since its founding in 1847, Xavier High School has educated the hearts, minds, and spirits of young men, drawing students from Manhattan, its outer boroughs, and the surrounding areas. A Jesuit school, Xavier’s mission is steeped in the values of spirituality and social justice, making the high school experience there much more than simply academic. New York City itself affords Xavier students unique enrichment opportunities. Gregory Stelzer, class of 2011 and the current Alumni Volunteer in Campus Ministry, shared his perspective of what it feels like going to high school in the middle of downtown Manhattan. He spoke of masses, the gorgeous St. Francis Xavier Church, and field trips to the MoMa. For him, however, service was at the center of Xavier’s mission, which he sums up in three simple words: “spirituality, respect, and generosity. ” Perhaps the most concrete example of this is the senior service program, wherein senior students spend their Mondays, not in class, but volunteering with nonprofit organizations throughout Manhattan. Such a platform has made Xavier a resource and a light, not just for its students, but for the broader New York community.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.