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Jenelle Callender

Eagle Celebrates Black History Award-Winning Scholars

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Eagle Celebrates Black History Award-winning Scholars

Eagle Celebrates Black History Award-winning Scholars

Eagle Celebrates Black History Award-Winning Scholars

The Eagle Academy Foundation is pleased to dedicate our inaugural blog post to the winners of the Fund II Foundation’s Black History in Two Minutes Essay Contest. Eagle scholars were tasked with watching all of the episodes of Black History in Two Minutes, the groundbreaking and award-winning series conceptualized by billionaire investor and philanthropist, Robert F. Smith, who was interviewed by our own Eagle Ambassadors on the weekly #EagleUpFridays Virtual Town Hall. Mr. Smith is the Founding Director of the Fund II Foundation, and a supporter of the programming implemented throughout the network of Eagle Academies. The Virtual Town Hall provided a rare opportunity for Eagle scholars to converse with such an iconic figure who is invested in their education and success.  

Impressed by the volume of high-caliber writing submitted by the contest entrants, Fund II Foundation identified ten 1st-place winners, ten 2nd-place winners, and sixteen 3rd-place winners. Winners in first place received Amazon gift cards in the amount of $1,000, those in second place received gift cards in the amount of $500, and those in third place received cards in the amount of $250.

Quincy Baker, Senior at Eagle Academy Staten Island poses in front of the Dinos Christianopoulos quote "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds."

 

Scholars spent Black History Month watching the series and subsequently wrote essays about what they learned and how the series resonated with them. One of the first-place winners, Quincy Baker, currently a senior at Eagle Academy Staten Island, is an impressive student, budding track & field star, and is currently getting ready to graduate this June. We took a moment to interview Quincy and learn how watching the riveting and informative series impacted him and his future plans.

*Note: Quincy’s answers have been slightly edited in the interest of length and clarity.

Question: You mentioned in your essay that you have a great deal of admiration for Booker T. Washington and what the series highlighted about him and the challenges he faced. What was it like watching the Black History in Two Minutes series?

Answer: It was a very eye-opening experience. I got to see and learn about events that I had never heard about before in school, like the Red Summer and the Freedmen’s Bank. It was very enlightening and inspirational watching it.

Question: There tends to be a range of emotions that people go through when watching the series. What would you say was the strongest emotion you felt while watching?

Answer: The strongest emotion I felt was empowerment – to see what my ancestors had gone through, and their ability to drive history despite their circumstances. I felt empowered and uplifted learning what they were able to do.

Question: Yes – empowering Eagle scholars is a fundamental philosophy of Eagle. You stated in your essay that Black History should be celebrated every month, not just in February. How do you feel you can contribute to this becoming a reality?

Answer: I feel like I can contribute by inspiring my peers and the youth that will come after me. They shouldn’t neglect our history nor let our ancestors’ pain be in vain. It’s important for us to fight for a better world and keep that work going.

Question: What has your experience at Eagle Academy been like? Also – what house are you in at Eagle, and how has that impacted your thinking?

Answer: Since we’re a small school, I feel like the staff and educators have been really attentive and focused on our success. I’ve also bonded really well with my fellow classmates. As a member of Mahatma Ghandi house at Eagle Staten Island, the quote that we live by is “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. I really appreciate that quote because I want to be a force for change. I plan to eventually work in policy writing to help revamp the judicial system from within.

We’ve extracted the following excerpt from Quincy’s winning essay, which is a testament to his commitment to the change of which he speaks:

“From watching videos on individuals like Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, and W.E.B. DuBois I learned the value of staying resilient to your dreams and ideas while not letting other people control your drive. Booker T. Washington suffered tremendous criticism for his public ideologies and was seen as leading African Americans in the wrong direction, but he also did work behind the scenes towards his ultimate goal. Ida B. Wells fought through death threats, actions of violence, and even driven out of Memphis in order to deliver the truth about the treatment of black people through her journalism. W.E.B. Du Bois used photographic exhibits to portray the progress and perspective of the lives of African Americans and help spark movement. Every one of these heroes had hardships that they had to deal with, but that didn’t stop them from getting their messages across, it didn’t stop their pursuit for change, and they didn’t let anyone change their minds about it.”

In addition to being a standout Eagle Academy student, Quincy Baker is also a Fellow in the My Brother’s Keeper Program established under President Barack Obama. He has been accepted at Howard University where he’ll enroll this fall with the intention to study political science.  

Quincy Baker, Senior at Eagle Academy Staten Island poses in front of the Dinos Christianopoulos quote "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds."

NYPD commissioner talks social justice with students

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NEW YORK — A candid conversation, up close and personal with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, answering questions from students of color during the Eagle Academy’s 19th virtual town hall to discuss the state of our country, systemic racism, inequality and so much more.

“Where we are today, recognizing we have an awful lot of work to still do,” said Shea. “I think that middle ground is where we can get, not just New York City but really the country back to where we want to be.”

First Black Woman to Run N.Y.C. Schools Faces Huge Task: Full Reopening

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Meisha Porter, a longtime Bronx educator whom Mayor Bill de Blasio named on Friday as his choice to replace Richard A. Carranza as schools chancellor, began her path to the chancellorship as a teenage activist who caught the attention of a group of urban planners in the South Bronx in the early 1990s.

Ms. Porter, who will be the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school system, was a youth organizer in the Highbridge neighborhood, and Richard Kahan, who was coordinating the planning for a 300-block area of the community, invited her to a meeting with local leaders at the Bronx borough president’s office.

NYC Schools Get First Black Female Chancellor as Carranza Abruptly Resigns During Ongoing COVID Crisis

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Bronx parent Farah Despeignes awoke to what she considered good news Friday, 11 months into a painful pandemic that brought not only trauma and loss, but also a series of missteps over reopening New York City’s schools.

Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Ross Porter, whom Despeignes had worked with in her role as president of the borough’s District 8 Community Education Council, would replace Richard Carranza, who had abruptly resigned as New York City schools chancellor, effective March 15.

The new appointment gave Despeignes some hope, even amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, which has left about 70 percent of city students still learning remotely, including her own two children.

Racial Gap in Degree Attainment

Report reveals NYC racial gap in degree attainment

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A new study outlines the size of the education gap between Black and Hispanic people when compared to white people.

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) report, titled “Building An Inclusive Economy In NYC: Boosting College Attainment,” revealed that 27% of Black and 20% of Hispanic New Yorkers have attained a bachelor’s degree while the city’s Asian and white population have attained at least a bachelor’s degree at 45% and 64% respectfully.

According to CUF’s analysis of the 2018 American Community Survey for 5-year estimates, when broken down by neighborhood, ones located in Brooklyn and the Bronx have the lowest rates of residents with a bachelor’s degree or more. In East New York/Starett City, 15.5% of its residents have a bachelor’s degree whereas in the Hunts Points/Melrose/Longwood area, only 12.2% of its residents have a bachelor’s degree.

In the Midtown East/Murray Hill/Gramercy/Stuyvesant Town area, 87.1% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Even within a neighborhood, there’s a stark difference racially. Hispanics in Jackson Heights, Queens have a bachelor’s degree at an 11.1% clip whereas 57.8% of the neighborhood’s white residents have one. In East Harlem, the number is 74.9% for white residents, 26.9% for Black residents and 19% for Hispanic residents.

Despite New York City being a haven for many college-educated residents, the numbers show which New Yorkers are benefitting from that attitude.

Zakiyah Ansari of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) told the AmNews that the fact that the Bronx and Brooklyn having largest disparities of degree attainment isn’t a coincidence.

“New York State has underfunded K-12 education for years, the latest being a $700 million cut to New York City public schools in the midst of a pandemic,” said Ansari. “Let’s be clear: these numbers are a reflection of the lack of investment in Black and Brown communities, not an inability to learn.

“We need the next mayor and City Council to use their bully pulpit to fight for equity and racial justice,” said Ansari.

When the AmNews contacted the city’s Department of Education (DOE), a spokesperson praised their current graduation rate and college enrollment.

“In tandem with our increasing graduation rates, we’re seeing more students than ever go on to college and postsecondary education,” read the statement.”

According to the DOE, the city’s school system currently has “the highest-ever college readiness rate” with 57.7% of all students and 72.5% of graduates of the high school Class of 2020 graduating on time and meeting the City University of New York’s standards for college readiness in English and math.

DOE’s spokesperson also touted a postsecondary enrollment rate of 63% with 48,968 students in the Class of 2019 going on to attending a two- or four-year college, vocational program, or public service program after graduation.

The CUF report paints a different picture when it comes to definitions of success. In 16 city neighborhoods, fewer than 25% of Black residents have a bachelor’s degree. Neighborhoods in the most gentrifying areas saw a significant expansion in the racial achievement gap.

In Brownsville/Ocean Hill in Brooklyn, white residents with a bachelor’s degree climbed to 42.7%. While Black and Hispanic residents stood at 16% and 12.2% respectively. In Concourse/Highbridge/Mount Eden in the Bronx, white residents with a bachelor’s degree stand at 46.2% 46.2% with Black residents (22.9%) and Hispanic residents (13.7%) trailing behind them.

When asked if he was surprised by the result of his study, CUF Executive Director Jonathan Bowles said he wasn’t surprised by the disparity, but he was surprised with how big the gap is.

“We anticipated racial gaps in college attainment, but were surprised at the extent of the disparities––and how much more progress is needed,” Bowles to the AmNews. “At a time when the lion’s share of the well-paying jobs are going to individuals with a college credential, it was alarming that in 8 of the city’s 55 Census-defined neighborhoods fewer than 18% of working-age residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

“It is distressing that in 39 of the city’s 55 neighborhoods, less than one-quarter of working-age Hispanic residents hold a bachelor’s or higher level of educational attainment––and that in 16 neighborhoods, fewer than 25% of working-age Black residents have a bachelor’s degree,” said Bowles.

Nina Worley of Teens Take Charge presented one way to improve school to improve the lot of Black and Brown kids in the public school system.

“The Summer Youth Employment Program connects NYC youth with paid career exploration opportunities during the summer,” said Worley in an email to the AmNews. “However, the number of spots for this program are limited and last year, 76,000 students were turned away due to lack of space. If the city were to increase funding and guarantee a paid summer internship to every student interested, it would help reduce the gaps in work-based learning for NY youth.”

Meryle Weinstein, Ph.D., a research professor of education policy at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, told the AmNews that students making their way to CUNY’s doesn’t mean the job is done.

“I think the biggest issue for kids who graduate high school is once they go to college, there is not enough support to pay for college to live,” Weinstein said. “If you’re going away, going to college is your job. As for the kids who stay in the city, college isn’t their main job. It’s hard for kids to finish. If there was more funding to support kids to get through college so they didn’t have to work, that would be good.”

Some of these changes in the bachelor’s achievement gap can be thrown back to the debate over specialized high schools and keeping the exam as the sole criterion for getting in. In the early 1980s, more than half of Brooklyn Tech was Black (51% in 1982). In 2016, the population had dropped to 6%. David Banks, president of the Eagle Academy Foundation, told the AmNews that he thinks Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is ready to make a move, but is being handcuffed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also said that he’s had enough of the talk surrounding the racial disparities and wants something done about it.

“Frankly, I’m tired and a little overwhelmed,” said Banks to the AmNews. “I wonder if some of these people are looking at these reports and saying that the system is working as designed. The report is talking about the lack of representation at the college level and how it plays out in apprenticeships, programs and job training. None of that is new. We hear the same ideas over the last 30 and 40 years when what we’re missing is leadership…how to re-craft the school system for maximum impact where everybody can win.”

“(Black) people haven’t gotten less smart,” said Banks. “The system has been gamed.”

New York City Mayoral candidates share their plans on improving city public schools

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Close to 1,500 parents, educators and community members registered to attend a virtual forum on Sunday with some of NYC’s 2021 mayoral candidates. They wanted to voice their concerns about accessible online learning, educational racial equity, high-risk standardized testing and funding. 

According to Maya Wiley – one of the candidates – the meeting was so important that day because the NYC public schooling system “wasn’t working before COVID, and isn’t working during COVID,” and that it was important for New York students to “not only catch up, but to exceed expectation.”

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