Harlem-Based Education Group Prepares Youth for College—and Graduation

Ninety-two percent of HEAF eighth-graders took the New York City Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, and 10% were accepted into specialized high schools—the most competitive schools in the city; 62% were accepted into other selective, screened schools—including early college high schools whose students graduate with an associate degree as well as a high school diploma. Still others were accepted into selective programs within high schools.

“These are all competitive, HEAF-approved programs vetted by data from the Department of Education,” McGee says, “that will prepare our students to successfully complete four-year colleges.”

College juniors and seniors can compete for admission to a HEAF fellows program that involves a week-long series of informational interviews with leaders from the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors, says McGee. Through these interviews the students make contacts in areas such as media and finance that can lead to a range of experiences, including internships.

According to 23-year-old alums Yinette Fernandez, an investment governance business analyst at a top investment bank, and Kamal Bryan, a professional intern who assists with the research of and communication with child welfare organizations in New York state, HEAF prepared them well for college, academically and in terms of time management skills.

“HEAF also has its own scholarships,” says Bryan, “and the staff help you with the scholarship application process.” Both Fernandez and Bryan are still involved with HEAF on an informal basis.

At its recent annual benefit dinner, HEAF raised more than $1 million. The organization receives 600 applications a year and now serves 500 students in sixth grade through college. With greater funding, it hopes to serve more.

Luminaries present included astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson and noted columnist and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria; deGrasse Tyson and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the acclaimed scholar and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, serve on HEAF’s board.

A HEAF student at the dinner may have paid the organization one of its highest compliments: Mervyn Larrier, now a high school senior who plans to pursue biomedical engineering and is applying to Johns Hopkins, Drexel, and Rensselaer, put it succinctly: “HEAF teaches you not to give up.”

Indeed, one of its mottoes is persistence.

For more about HEAF, go to www.heaf.org.

 

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