NEW YORK — Since 1989 Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF), along with their school and community partnerships, has helped more than 10,000 New York City students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability, social values and personal resilience needed to ensure success in school, career and life. More notable is their high success rate at engaging children and their families in the prospect of higher education.
Many students lose focus of academic goals during the long summer months. No matter how high a student’s grades may be at the end of the school year, if the material is not refreshed they will lose about 80% of what they learned within one month. HEAF’s Summer Quest offers summer learning programs that allow students to continue academic development.
HEAF programs, including their summer enrichment activities, help level the educational playing field for equal access to higher learning opportunities for all. Over 90% of HEAF students, 96% of which are black and Latino and come from backgrounds with significant personal challenges, complete college degrees. Nationwide, only 36% of black and Latino students complete college degrees.
Sparking the interest for students to attend and complete college, Summer Quest’s six-week program for rising 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade students with courses that concentrate on entrepreneurship, engineering, law, fine arts, foreign languages, urban waterways and more.
HEAF serves high-potential, under-resourced public school students in New York City, particularly Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx, from 6th through 12th grade. The organization targets middle-performing students who are ineligible for either remediation or gifted programs but have the potential to make significant academic and social gains.
HEAF has set an aggressive goal to expand and replicate the program in the next few years to serve as many as 20,000 students.
With a tightening economy and a job market that increasingly requires advanced education, more than ever students—especially minority and financially challenged students—need a quality education and life skills to compete for good jobs.
Over the next 20 years an estimated 1.7 million* students will pass through New York City high schools and only 667,000* of them, or about 40%, will receive the NYS Regents Diploma, a measure widely used to indicate college readiness. By comparison, over 83% of graduates statewide are expected to earn Regents diplomas.** Only 31% of Latino students and 32% of black students in NYC will receive Regents Diplomas (based on 2008 numbers reported in 2009 by the NYC Department of Education).
“Considering these numbers, HEAF recognizes the need to significantly raise the bar of expectation for ourselves in order to bring our vision to reality. Our goal is to help more than twice as many students over the next 20 years as we did in the last 20 years and assist 20,000 students attain their undergraduate college degree—the impact on communities would be dramatic.” states Dr. Danielle Moss-Lee, Executive Director of HEAF.
HEAF has launched several initiatives aimed at recruiting additional qualified staff, instructors, volunteers and, of course, students. Also on the priority list is reaching out to more potential contributors, challenging them to take part in increasing the educational opportunities and hope of New York City students facing otherwise insurmountable obstacles.
“We believe that the social skills and education acquired by HEAF students can only be good for business and the economy in New York City, as they provide businesses with more highly educated and highly qualified job applicants at the entry level. I’d love to look back 20 years from now to compare data from the 2010 census with 2030 census and see a dramatic increase in college educated African-American and Latino households,” adds Dr. Lee.