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.
Our Student Government consists of 18 students representing their peers through planning and implementing engaging and celebratory Founders’ Day assemblies, as well as events like Field Day, House Meetings, Fundraisers, and other community events.
The Learning Leaders Program provides the opportunity for qualifying students of the Bronx Academy of Letters to use their leadership skills while performing community service in different capacities. During the school year, they tutor and mentor our middle school students after school, as well as at assist their local places of worship or daycare centers. They also participate annually in the AIDS Walk as well as City Meals on Wheels.
After completing 85 hours of community service, the Learning Leaders take a college course during the summer at the University of California, Berkeley, all expenses paid. If the students receive at least a B in their class, they receive college credit and a stipend as a reward. This opportunity is only possible through the sponsorship of the Coleman Fung Foundation. Below are this year's Learning Leaders:
Peer Group Connection
Peer Group Connection (PGC) for High Schools is an evidence-based program that supports and eases students’ successful transition from middle to high school. The program taps into the power of high school juniors and seniors to create a nurturing environment for incoming freshmen. Once per week, pairs of junior and senior peer leaders meet with groups of 10-14 freshmen in outreach sessions designed to strengthen relationships among students across grades. These peer leaders are simultaneously enrolled in a daily, for-credit, year-long leadership course taught by school faculty during regular school hours. PGC has been implemented with a 70% sustainability rate in more than 175 high schools since 1979. A recently released, four-year longitudinal, randomized-control study conducted by Rutgers University and funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services found that, among other major results, PGC improves the graduation rates of student participants in an inner city public school by ten percentage points and cuts by half the number of male students who would otherwise drop out.
THE APPLEGATE GARDEN
The Applegate Garden broke ground in 2010 in the South Bronx's District 7. Our area is known to have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the United States, and is among the poorest congressional districts. We offer farm fresh, organic produce that we grow, from seed to harvest, in our very own school garden, and supplement those crops with weekly deliveries from the Hunts Point Farmers Market. Our partnership with Greenmarket Co. has brought our project to the next level, by allowing us to educate and feed the community on a much larger scale than our garden allowed. No longer is fresh produce a luxury that's out of our reach, but a foundation on which we build a better, healthier future for ourselves.
JUNIOR STATE OF AMERICA
The Junior State of America is a program for the youth of today that helps strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society. The intended goal is for the students to demonstrate statesmanship as they engage in political discourse. They cultivate democratic leadership skills, challenge one another to think critically, advocate their own opinions, develop respect for opposing views and learn to rise above self-interest to promote the public good.
GENDER & SEXUALITY ALLIANCE
OPERATION BREAKING STEREOTYPES
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.