Urban Leaders Academy
WHAT ARE WE?
Urban Leaders Academy (ULA) is an after-school program based in one high school and one middle school in Brooklyn for youth ages 11-14. It is a holistic program designed to advance leadership skills, social justice principles and values, and self-determination within our young people. Staff and mentors view youth as catalysts for change to improve gender, race, and class rights for communities of color. Serving as many as 90 students at each location, ULA intentionally collaborates with each school to meet the students’ needs by filling in the gaps with enrichment programming that schools are unable to provide.
OUR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT MODEL
- Youth Leadership: playing an active role in self-determination, which in turn has an impact on the community at large.
- Consciousness Raising: challenging oneself and influencing others to think critically about systems of oppression and the roles individuals and communities play in these systems.
- Social Growth and Identity: youth exploring the concept of identity and build character in relation to self and the larger community through a broad range of enrichment and support activities.
- Education and Career: promoting cross-disciplinary academic excellence and exposure to nontraditional career goals.
- Community Organizing for Social Justice: building organizational skills and implementing strategies that mobilize the community to change gender, race, and class dynamics for people of color living in urban communities.
- Health and Fitness: building nutrition and fitness awareness and practice.
6 PRINCIPLES OF PEDAGOGY – TEACHING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Let critical consciousness by the foundation of the work.
- Be a catalyst for change within the classroom, school, and community.
- Meet students where they are.
- Teach skills, bridge gaps.
- Collaborate with individuals, families, and communities.
- Make student evaluations strength-based.
- Over time, we at ULA have created strong partnerships with organizations that have allowed our program to grow, expand, and continue to offer new and exciting opportunities for our students:
- Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI) is the New York City Department of Education’s focused effort to expand the number of middle schools that prepare students for college and career success.
- Move This World helps students understand, engage, express and manage their emotions healthily.
- Anti-Violence Project leads youth workshops around issues such as bullying (with an LGBTQ focus), internet safety, dating violence, media messaging, etc.
- The Leadership Program provides social justice drama workshops to help develop the student’s skills in addressing these issues in their communities.
- Teens Helping Each Other (THEO) hosts peer-led workshop series on topics such as puberty, healthy decision making, gender and stereotypes, conflict resolution, time management, etc.
- Arts Horizons provides artistic programming such as Chorus, Dance, Clowning, Book Making, and Mural Arts.
- Kaplan Learning Test Prep provides English, Language Arts, Math, Regents, and Specialized High School Test Prep.
- Service Learning Component – Students get the opportunity to learn about non-profits and community-based organizations by visiting their spaces and learning how they serve the community. Students have participated in exciting exchanges and worked on engaging projects with organizations such as:
- Safe Horizon
- Brooklyn Food Coalition MS 61
- The Door
- Democracy Now
- Health and Fitness Component – Students are encouraged to take an active role in their health and fitness. Depending on the year we offer a variety of activities: (red activities are done regularly.)
- Hip Hop
- Cooking and Food Justice
- Intramural Basketball
- Move This World
- Rock Climbing
- Spirit Boxing
- Martial Arts
- Artistic Expression Component – Students are given an outlet in which they can express themselves through art. ULA encourages students to use artwork as a way to explore and create discussion surrounding social issues. (red activities are done regularly)
- Visual Art
- Art Therapy
- Art for Activism Writing
- Spoken Word
- Gaming and Game Design
- Forum Theater
- Media Technology
- Digital Story Telling
- Visual Art
Program Director – Nicole Hamilton
“Teaching them community is the most impactful and long lasting part of ULA in my opinion. This is us rolling up our sleeves with the students. We do not consider ourselves above them. There is mutual love and respect.” –Asha John, Lead Teacher and Step Instructor
“I think the most impactful part is giving them a platform to think critically and question and have a voice. I think it’s great and empowering to be working with kids that are young. Not many people would think to do a program like this with middle school students.”- Nora Dankner, Art Therapy Instructor
“I have been with the program for 2 years and I think it really creates a sense of community with the students who participate regularly in the program. They feel a part of something. One thing I appreciate about ULA and GGE is the thought put into how we teach social justice.” – Katherine Kusiac-Carey, Media Instructor
“We engage the students on the decision-making on what they like or don’t like. It empowers them and makes them feel like they are an integral part as much as we are. The kids love it.” –Christine Kroening, Lead Teacher
“I think the best word is respect. Everyone respects each other and it doesn’t matter if you are a teacher or student. Everyone’s opinion matters and sometimes we disagree and we agree to disagree. They have made relationships that will last beyond ULA.” –Dorothy D’Aleo, Site Coordinator
“ULA offers a door of opportunity for becoming a leader. . . I don’t think that any after-school program can compare to the information given here. We talk about violence . . . about how other people are being treated . . . how we can help our communities . . .” –Joshua Cherry, MS 381
“I made more friends because of GGE.”-Abigaelle Bellevue, JHS 78
“I love the fact that I learned about what is going on in my community and what is going on nation-wide. I used to be shy but now I am more open-minded and able to speak my mind.” –Cassandra Felix, JHS 78
“At first, I didn’t want to go to school anymore but, when I heard about the program and signed up it was fun and kept on motivating me. . . ULA motivated me to go to school and the program. This program has changed me.” –D’Andre Rose, JHS 78
“When I joined ULA it really boosted up my confidence. Mrs. Nicole [program director] comes to our classes and teaches us life lessons. Like how not to be racist.” –Debbie Medy, JHS 78
“ULA helped me speak up more if my friends or peers were doing something wrong. I would tell them they did something wrong instead of just stand on the sidelines and watch. We should speak up for what we believe in. We are never too young to speak up for what we believe in.” –Kayla-Hope Bruno, JHS 78
“The most important things I have learned was in cooking because of food justice . . . We learned about our food and what chemicals they have in them. We learn skills like substituting different healthier foods for unhealthy things.” –Wildneysa Bellefluer, JHS 78