Eagle Academy in Harlem Soars to Success
Sr VP Chancellor Jay Hershenson & Eagle Academy President David Banks
The tone at the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem’s Grand Opening Celebration was one of fervor and passion. Students, faculty, parents, and supporters of the school gathered recently for a special ceremony in honor of the opening of this New York City public all boys school for grades six through twelve. The ceremony included remarks from Dennis M. Walcott, New York City Schools Chancellor, David C. Banks, President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, and the academy’s principal, Mahaliel H. Bethea II. Parent and scholar testimonials were also passionately present highlighting how the Eagle Academy approach has helped their families and inspired young scholars. Julius Pugh, a scholar from the class of 2020, proudly stated, “We must blaze a path for others.” It is a part of the Eagle Pledge, which the Eagle Scholars proudly articulated in one voice earlier in the ceremony.
The philosophy of former Manhattan Borough President, Percy Sutton, whose name appears on the facade of the building, which houses the Eagle Academy of Harlem, provides apt description of the school. Percy Sutton’s philosophy was to provide a “beacon of leadership and vision” which is just what the Eagle Academy strives to do. This school is the fifth Eagle Academy opened since 2004 following the Eagle Academies located in the Bronx, Ocean Hill/Brownsville Brooklyn, South Jamaica Queens, and Newark, New Jersey.
Seniors and Chancellor Walcott
The first Eagle Academy, located in the Bronx, was opened in response to the alarmingly low rate at which young minority males were graduating from high school. Nationwide, 47% of African American males and 44% of Latino males graduated from high school. Youth who dropped out of school face disheartening economic futures and are more likely to be incarcerated. Seventy percent of all those incarcerated in the State of New York came from 5 neighborhoods in New York City, known as the prison pipeline. The mission of the Eagle Academy is to combat the prison pipeline by providing at risk young men a way to become academic achievers who are responsible and engaged in their community and the world. During the ceremony, each scholar was presented with a tie, emblazed with the image of an eagle, that was given to them by a man at the ceremony as a symbol of the community’s faith and support of them. The confidence that this support along with the Eagle Academy’s approach instills in these scholars was evident as five seniors from the Eagle Academy of Bronx recited William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus”, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
The auditorium was filled with an abundance of love and affection for the young men who proudly wore the uniform of the Eagle Academy. #
Patricia Lavelle is senior in the Macaulay Honors Program at Brooklyn College and a reporter for Education Update.