To the Eagle community,
As you’ve all heard, I’ve been appointed as the next NYC Schools Chancellor by Mayor-elect Eric Adams. It’s with a full heart that I share with you all that, after 17 unforgettable years, my time as President & CEO of The Eagle Academy Foundation is coming to an end.
As I reflect on my time at Eagle, it has been nothing short of thrilling. I take immense pride in what we have achieved. There have been countless victories, lessons, and ultimately an abundance of joy in helping transform the lives of thousands of young men across New York City, Newark, N.J., and beyond. It has been the honor of my life to help launch this important mission and show the world what young men of color can really accomplish.
The decision was a difficult one. However, I believe it is time for me to allow a new generation of Eagle leadership to shine. I’m happy to share that my longtime colleague and friend, Eagle’s Director of College Planning & Post-Secondary Opportunities, Donald M. Ruff Jr., will serve as The Eagle Academy Foundation’s Interim President & CEO. I wholeheartedly trust his ability to lead our organization through this transition, and I am confident that his passion and expertise will allow our schools to flourish, our young men to find their greater purpose, and our foundation to reach new and exciting heights.
When I reflect on my Eagle journey, destiny is the word that often comes to mind. Eagle was a calling that drew me to what I knew was my life’s purpose. Several years prior, I had just helped successfully open the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice in 1997 and loved every moment of serving as its Founding Principal. Yet, a greater power called me to this work, and I wholly dedicated myself to Eagle’s mission.
The idea of creating the Eagle Academy for Young Men first came to fruition when leaders from One Hundred Black Men recognized a problem in our education system and wanted to make a real difference in the lives of young men of color. Looking back after nearly two decades, I couldn’t have imagined how much we would end up accomplishing.
The Eagle Academy Foundation has impacted thousands of young men, many of whom attended college, launched great careers, and, most importantly, became the architects of their own futures. Together, we successfully opened six fully operating public schools, launched a state of the art $50 million facility, served over 5,000 young men, fundraised millions of dollars, and established the Eagle Institute, an audacious response to scale the foundation’s impact for more young men of color across the nation.
The memories are endless. I carry with me the 2004 summer trip to Alpine Park: the first time I would ever meet our soon-to-be Eagle students. The day was August 28, 2004 — 41 years to the day Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech. We loaded up buses with 115 young men and mentors during a moment in time that will forever be entrenched in the minds of everyone in attendance. There were activities, teaching, upliftment, and fun! It was a precursor to everything that has transpired over the last 17 years.
I reflect on our first official school day on September 13, 2004, which we held at Columbia University with the theme “Start at the Finish Line,” instilling in our young men that higher education is possible. In 2008, we returned to Columbia University for our first graduation, with every senior accepted to a college or university.
I’ll forever remember our reciting of Invictus, powerful words quintessential to our community, repeated everywhere from our daily town halls to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
For me, this work has always been about helping young men see a brighter future, and there’s been no greater joy than helping to shape and impact so many along the way.
To the parents and families of the young men – thank you. I always say parental engagement is a critical component in any school’s success. Thank you for trusting us with your children and allowing us to help them SOAR.
To the Board of Directors – thank you. Your leadership, belief in this mission, and supplying the Foundation with the tools and resources for us to succeed have been vital to our success.
To our supporters in this work, including foundations, corporations, community leaders, and individuals – thank you for being allies and committed partners in helping us achieve our mission.
To all the principals, staff, and teachers – thank you. It’s your everyday brilliance in the Eagle Academies that nourishes the minds of our young men. You all continue to show African American and Latino boys that their potential is endless.
To the Eagle Academy Foundation staff, both past and present – thank you for your hard work and dedication in keeping me inspired and setting new and ambitious goals for the Foundation. Thank you for being there with me every step of the way and sharing a passion for helping our young men.
Finally, to the young men of Eagle Academy, alumni and current, it’s been my life’s most fulfilling work serving you – thank you.
I will always be with you. I look forward to working with and championing Eagle from my new role as Chancellor.
Continue to Soar High,
David C. Banks