Last week GCP had the pleasure of attending Eagle Academy Foundation’s annual awards breakfast where they celebrate the boys of their Eagle Academy schools and honor people who inspire their boys. The Eagle Academy Foundation supports a network of six all male, grades 6-12 college preparatory schools in challenged urban communities in the five boroughs of Manhattan and Newark. This year they honored Merck CEO Ken Frazier and VP of Turner Construction Stephanie Burns.
Talk about inspirational. The theme of this breakfast was “Activating Possibilities”. David Banks, the amazing President, CEO and of Founder The Eagle Academy Foundation, described the six ways in which the Eagle Academy schools help their boys grow and develop academically and personally:
1. They believe in their young men and give them rigorous academic training;
2. They take students to visit colleges in order to make the college experience real to them;
3. They keep the boys active and engaged after school and during the summers–they want to reduce idle time;
4. They engage parents and families–they truly believe that parents must be partners;
5. They believe that rituals, ceremonies, and traditions are key to helping the boys understand that they are full of promise and potential. One clever example of this is the tie system: every grade has a different colored tie. You earn your way to the next tie, and you are given it in a year-end ceremony.
Eagle Academy schools emphasize the CLEAR values they want their boys to believe in and work to uphold:
Is it working? Eagle Academies have a 84% graduation rate, well above the NYC graduation rate for young black men. And most impressively, 98% of their graduates go on to college.
That morning we met a young man, Carmelo Baptista, who exemplified Eagle Academy’s CLEAR values. As he explained:
“If you see me now you know I love learning. But you didn’t know the old me. I used not to like school. When I would read, words flew off the page and moved around. I thought words didn’t like me.” After he got to Eagle Academy and a middle school teacher helped him combat his dyslexia by encouraging him to stop struggling and to “let the words be”. He became a much better reader, which helped him with his other subjects. He now considers his dyslexia a “gift” because ” it allows me to see all life’s possibilities”. He told us ” Eagle Academy never gave up on me. Knowing this, I never gave up on myself”.
This young man will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall. But he is not gone for good. He explained: “I’m leaving the block but I’m coming back. Our Eagle brothers know we have to come back and help the younger ones.”
Bravo Carmelo Baptista, and Bravo to David Banks and the Eagle Academy Foundation for such inspirational work with our boys and young men!!!