We believe that when students understand that they are leaders and deeply responsible for making our community a better place, we can transform culture and society while also building skill and content acquisition.
At BAL, we put social justice work at the center of teaching and learning. Students across grades 6-9 take Service Learning, an elective class aimed at strengthening citizenship and mobilizing change. Students in grades 9-12 have access to electives like IntegrateNYC, United Playaz, Writing For Social Justice, Documentary Film and so much more. Twice a year our students take part in Be The Change Week, an innovative and interdisciplinary week of learning where students learn about a larger community issue while also working to develop a solution/support.
Restorative Justice Program
We are committed to stopping the school-to-prison-pipeline that targets our youth, and to promoting the health, success and emotional growth of our young people, in addition to their academic growth. Toward this end, we are committing to restorative justice work through ongoing professional development for staff, our hiring process, and a dedicated Restorative Justice Coordinator, who runs interventions in our PASS room (Positive Alternatives to School Suspension). From running circles to mentoring, the PASS Room is a lab for restorative practices within our school, as well as the place where students learn skills and strategies to build accountability and relationships with peers, staff and themselves.
Our peer mediation program began in 2011 and trained middle-school students intensely on how to become positive agents of conflict resolution within their community. In the fall of 2016, we have relaunched this program and trained a cohort of 23 mediators, who have mediation as an elective course on their schedule, and are earning credits for their contribution to our school climate. We have mediators “on duty” during 4 periods of our day, 5 days a week, so that conflicts within the school are able to be intercepted, mediated and de-escalated by students, as quickly as possible. Students are responsible for requesting mediations at our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact us to schedule a mediation or learn more about our program.
A youth-led violence prevention organization started in San Francisco over 20 years ago, United Playaz of New York has been operating in the Bronx for 11 years. We currently run programming in 5 high schools in the Bronx. In BAL’s school-based program, students take an elective course in which they study racism, violence and how it impacts their neighborhoods by analyzing hip-hop culture and the school to prison pipeline. Then, students take control of the class, by deciding how they’d like to positively impact the community, and completing a research project that ends in taking action. This course is an introduction to community organizing, and shows students that “it takes the hood to save the hood”.
IntegrateNYC4me is a youth led initiative to transform NYC schools from a system of separate unequal schools to a system of equitable, integrated, supportive learning communities. IntegrateNYC4me facilitates youth generated research, advocacy, and action to address the 3 R's of integration: racial and socioeconomic enrollment, resource allocation, and relationships across group identities. IntegrateNYC4me students have engaged their work with with student activists from all five boroughs, local public officials, activists, and the US Department of Education. IntegrateNYCme was founded in 2014 by Bronx Letters students Samantha Ramos, Timothy Martinez, Justin Minaya, Britney Soto, Julyssa Cruz, and Francisco Cornejo as a 10th grade advisory project. Today IntegrateNYC4me is led by a city-wide youth council representing thousands of students around NYC.