Great Leaps for Higher Learning, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that infuses the New York State Common Core Standards and rigorous academics into a rich athletic based initiative.
Our student-athletes will augment their knowledge acquisition by developing an understanding of the connectedness between athletic competition, language arts and mathematics.
Recent data has shown that among adults, physical activity reduces or improves obesity-related comorbidities such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance. Furthermore, research points out that physical activity appears to have the same beneficial effects in children. In addition, research has shown the correlation between physical activity and academic success. One of the most important challenges is how to achieve these recommendations. The first step is for medical and public health and educator practitioners to recognize the importance of physical activity. Successful implementation of the recommendations will require the efforts of all these groups.
Complementary strategies in schools and communities will also be required. Individual behavior change will be less likely if children live in environments that are unsafe or lack playgrounds or other recreational facilities. Our Great Leaps Projects will meet the needs of these issues and provide support in ensuring health self-awareness, being physically fit and academically sound.
Our year round programs are as follows:
Summer Basketball Tournaments – Rucker Park Invitational U13 and Tri-State Invitational Tournament are competitive basketball events for our scholar-athletes
Fall and Spring Academic Initiative – we will provide direct academic intervention services and one to one tutoring for student-athletes who struggle academically in Science, Technology, English and Math
NYS ELA and MATH Test Prep for students in preparation for NYS exams in the Spring
NYS Regents Prep for our High School students
These programs also aligned with NYS Standards for Education and our staff are current and former NYS Licensed Educators and Administrators who have serviced over 100,000 students in New York City schools.
GREAT LEAPS FOR HIGHER LEARNING, INC.
Part 1: Proposal Summary
Great Leaps for Higher Learning, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that infuses the New York State Common Core Standards and rigorous academics into a rich athletic based initiative. Our student-athletes will augment their knowledge acquisition by developing an understanding of the connectedness between athletic competition, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM education). They will learn how to identify, discuss and experience the impact of athletics and its relationship to core subjects and in all content areas including social studies and language arts. Our student-athletes will be selected to compete in various sporting events against peers locally, regionally and nationally. This exposure will enhance the lives of our players by building discipline, confidence, drive and ambition. These virtues can be applied to other areas of a student-athlete’s life for successful results. The targeted student-athlete population will primarily exist within the Concourse and Morrisania sections of the Bronx, New York and all activities will be conducted within the confines of the aforementioned areas within the Bronx, New York with periodic competitive games within the Tri-State Area as well as regional and national excursions.
The Great Leaps Inc. mission is to leverage our current successes to influence companies and philanthropic entities such as Nike Community impact Fund ($25,000), Charles Hayden Foundation ($25,000), Verizon ($50,000), Turn 2 Us Foundation ($10,000), Bronx Lebanon Hospital ($6,000), SNY ($5,000) and legislative entities/political affiliates (i.e. Bronx Borough President, NYS legislative members and member items) to produce additional funding and support to augment our efforts and sincere interest in developing our youth of the South Bronx. Lastly, we utilize our resources and connections with high-profile athletes (professional and collegiate), and local businessman to develop a sound fundraising venture. We are conducting all aspects of the process and are not collaborating with any another organization on this same program request.
Part 2: Organization/Group Applying for Funds
In the wintry conditions of 2007, while coaching our boys basketball team to a Middle School Bronx Championship, we grew to understand the needs of our student-athletes and how schools were seemingly not equipped to educate the whole child (mentally, physically and socio-emotionally) due to limited school funding and educator expertise and preparedness (lack of professional development support); or even at a level of understanding which sports coaches can truly comprehend and appreciate. Our student-athletes struggled with the academic component in their classrooms, were low performing on New York State ELA and Math standardized testing and struggled with behavioral and social issues.
Most of our students were offered restorative justice practices for their misbehavior, while their parents grappled with understanding complex technological student academic data. We realized at that point that Great Leaps needed to form as an entity to act as an advocate between the parent/student and school to ensure a quality education through sports that would be an effective and viable option for our student-athletes’ overall success.
Our primary goal at Great Leaps, Inc. as a premier provider of youth sport experiences consists of seeking to enhance our participants overall academic achievement through a series of successful activities (small group instruction and one to one academic support), collective student engagement (enhancing student approach to classrooms) and a sound methodology to student leadership. We intend to further our purposes by acquiring the interest of student-athletes by providing rich opportunities for students to develop their athletic and academic capabilities through an interdisciplinary approach and active participation in competitive sporting events. Our Director of Education will create an annual goals and short-term objective profiles, which will include methods of measurement, report of progress and progress towards the annual goal. Examples of methods of measurement will include, tutor made materials, differentiated tasks, standardized tests, Mastery Connect portfolios, performance assessment tasks and technology enrichment. There will be a unique color coding system that will report on progress and assessing goal achievements. All educational staff will have access to the individualized education plan and will meet periodically with the Director of Education to discuss student academic intervention progress. Additionally, we seek to combat community deterioration in the South Bronx, New York, which is one of the poorest districts in the country. There are high rates of asthma, heart disease, student suspensions and incarceration, sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol use and teen pregnancy in the area; and we point towards the goal of contending with low-income, socio-economic and impoverished student-athletes that need a resource that can improve their current situations. Our efforts are to lessen the burden of single-family homes and particularly support young minority males.
We are currently in our eleventh year of existence (Est. 2006) and have been during the last eight years operating under 501 (c) 3 statuses (2009-present). During our tenure we have served 609 young males and 217 young females mostly from the Community Board 3, 4 and 9 sections of the South Bronx. We have created individualized educational plans for student academic success, met with parents regarding their child’s overall development, and traveled with our student-athletes to competitive sporting events. We have participated in many of the premier basketball tournaments throughout NYC and Tri-State Area. Some of the venues that our student-athletes have been participants include, Garden State Basketball (NJ), City-Wide Rucker AA Tournament (NYC), Slam Fest (NJ), Tri-State Classic Tournament (NYC), Each One Teach One Tournament (NYC), Nutmeg State Games (New Haven, CT.), Keystone Blazers Club (King of Prussia, PA), Bronx Middle School Basketball League, and The New York City Department of Education’s PSAL and C.H.A.M.P.S. League.
Our participation has been highly competitive with our teams reaching the playoffs consistently and including several successful Championship seasons. In June 2010 our traveling team played against AAU 16U Boys Basketball Teams from New Jersey, Connecticut and Philadelphia to win our first Northeast Regional AAU Championship at Farleigh Dickerson University’s Slam-Fest. Our student-athletes currently play at prestigious city high schools such as Wings Academy, St. Raymond's HS, John F. Kennedy HS, Frederick Douglass Academy III HS, Cardinal Hayes HS and colleges St. Francis, Hofstra and Seton Hall. Our student-athletes are all on track to graduate high school on time and we have placed our participants into colleges of their choice.
Part 3: Description of Project/Program
Great Leaps for Higher Learning, Inc. was originally formed in 2006 by licensed New York State educators and administrators practicing in NYC schools, as a response to many alarming issues related to children’s overall health and wellness: nutrition, fitness, childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, and teen drug/alcohol use were the core of concentration. We provided the setting for an academic component which consisted of direct instruction, small group instruction, one to one supports, formal student assessments and accountability for our student-athletes overall intellectual well-being. The social-emotional connector consisted of NYS licensed social workers and trainers in restorative practices meeting with student-athletes to implement strategies for them to be holistically taught in making informed decisions for the betterment of themselves and society as a whole. It was through this model that students at all levels received the benefits of learning (academically and behaviorally) through the motivation of movement, motor skills, conflict resolution, mental and social health techniques and academic skills acquisition. The project delivered a program with the emphasis on fitness, health and academics while fostering a strong connection between student-athletes, parents and the community in order to cultivate enhanced personal responsibility and a deeper sense of empowerment.
Our initial work began in the Winter of 2006, at the Charles R. Drew Educational Center, located near 169th Street and Third Avenue in the Claremont Section of the South Bronx, New York. The neighborhood consists of large housing projects, low-income residents, inadequate social services and limited resources. Most of our student-athlete population lives in low-income single-family homes, or in foster care. Additionally, most of our parents, guardians and foster parents have not traditionally attended college and their children struggle academically. There is a heavy presence of gang and drug activity in the neighborhood, and seemingly uncontrolled violence (i.e., shootings, murders and assaults). There is a high rate of student suspensions, arrests, incarceration, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy in the neighborhood. We have personally witnessed middle school aged girls carrying to term and delivering babies during the school year and have been made aware of young males infecting females with STI’s. There are many student-athletes with behavioral issues and most are low academic performers. We are currently involved with student-athletes in Morrisania Area.
In citywide reports for 2016, District 9 (which includes Charles R. Drew Educational Center and Diana Sands Campus) has a 4% in level 4 performances (the highest achievable level) on grade 6, 3.1% on grade 7 and 4.4% on grade 8 for performance in scoring by region. One of the schools in which our students attend has a 76% of Level 1 learners (the lowest possible score). The performance on New York State assessment by district in 2016, district 9 tested 2,528 sixth grade students and 44.9% of students achieved level 1, the lowest level possible. That trend continues for grade 7, with 2641 students tested at a 44.5% level 1 score and grade 8 at 2779 students tested and 33.6% at level 1. These are alarming rates for our children. The student population at District 9 schools is roughly 52% male and 48% female and made up of mostly Black (49%) and Hispanic (48%) students.
Our need is to initiate a comprehensive academic and social-emotional and behavioral intervention educational program that meets the requirements of the NYS Common Core curriculum and will be a responsible learning enhancement strategy through competitive sports as a practical option to holistic learning. Even though Great Leaps, Inc. serves all students, male and female, we are passionate about our approach concerning young male students, especially young black and latino men in particular and their attitudes to learning and instruction (since historically, our young males lag so far behind). Our desire will be to continue to serve this population of learners, while fully understanding the seriousness and potential effectiveness of providing comprehensive instruction for young minority males. The student-athletes we serve are a segment of our population that are misunderstood, ignored at times and basically considered insignificant in some social circles. Our need is to acknowledge the statistical reporting that provides evidence of underachievement, yet attempt to raise awareness to enhance social change culturally and augment common educational practice regarding these student-athletes. Great Leaps for Higher Learning, Inc. acknowledges these student-athletes and provides the necessary resources to assist in their development. This includes mentoring programs, curriculum design specifically for these students (not special education) to flourish, and design program principles solely for young minority male students that encompasses these ideals and concepts.
Great Leaps is established on the belief that all students, when motivated effectively and consistently, can produce dramatic results in school, at home and in their communities. Our vision is to create a framework that infuses NYS Common Core academics and athletics, which fosters intellectual creativity and expression through higher level cognitive thinking. Special efforts will be afforded to our student-athletes by providing a solid academic foundation, while building social-emotional and behavioral skills through competitive sports. Moreover, our program design is to motivate students for academic excellence in school, assist families through the process and enhance athletic development. Finally, our overarching objective is to develop and foster the academic, athletic and personal interests of promising young student-athletes, and through direct instruction, teach them how to balance and incorporate these components and structures into their lives. Our belief is that teaching and learning can be constructed in the traditional setting and also in the gymnasium.
The mission of Great Leaps is to acquire the interest of student-athletes by providing rich opportunities for students to develop their athletic and academic capabilities through an interdisciplinary approach and active participation in competitive sporting events. We offer student-athletes from elementary school through high-school positive learning and team experiences along with tutoring, mentoring and family services. Great Leaps, Inc. is a premier provider of youth sport experiences and seeks to enhance its participants overall achievement through a series of successful activities, collective student engagement and a solid approach to student leadership and overall well being through the utilization of our program principles.
We believe that competitive sport opportunities will develop students overall academic achievement. With such conditions, students will learn to communicate effectively orally, socially and collaboratively. They will develop a love for discipline, confidence and virtues that can be acquired in a sports-based academic program that will prepare them for global citizenship. They will appreciate competitive sports, sports cultures and embrace the principles to create a foundation that will allow them to become successful athletes. They will make connections between their own knowledge and others and learn to respect all forms of diversity. They will learn about their personal heritage and they will learn to appreciate, understand, and tolerate diversity and equity within national sports and abroad. Our student-athletes will foster love and care for themselves and others and will achieve their potential and facilitate for others to do the same in honor of the human spirit. Our student-athletes will learn to work cooperatively in benefit of the group or team. They will learn to be responsible for the social reality they build and will engage in a conscious transformation of our global community in search for equity, inclusion, justice, and peace through academics and sports-related activities The instructional component will support positive student outcomes. The academic aspect will be nurturing, respectful, safe, and comfortable. The program will be viewed as a community in which all student-athletes are valued.
Great Leaps, Inc. will serve as a liaison between schools and competitive sports programs to honor the commitment of educating the “whole child”, academically, socially, emotionally, behaviorally and physically. Our academic instructors will develop curriculum and assessment aligned with NYS Common Core standards and be equipped with data collection and analysis directly from the student-athletes classroom for the creation of needs assessment based activities that will move our student-athletes forward. Our administration will support professional development activities for all Great Leaps teachers, instructors and coaches. The program will ensure that all members develop to their professional capacity to enhance student learning.
Students will respect themselves and all members of the community. Students will be encouraged to voice their opinion. His or her ideas will be valued by everyone. Teachers, mentors and coaches will be encouraged to dialogue with students and parents on any concerns. These trust relationships among Great Leaps community members will foster the sense of community within the program. The result is an organization in which learning precedes athletics and competitive sports competition participation is contingent upon strong academic standing. The program will incorporate and develop our student-athletes’ academic, athletic and social/emotional proficiencies. Ultimately, we are a college-bound program that will provide a rigorous academic program with differentiated instruction, sports-related workshops and programming; as well as travel squads, athletic field studies and college visits.
Our practical objective and methodology is initially designed to reach out to parents and assist them in securing tutorial services through referrals to SES programs within their child’s school, and provide one-on-one tutoring for special needs students by Great Leaps instructors. We will tutor our student-athletes and create an IEP (individual educational plan) for students and schedule tutorial sessions around the SES school-based service. Our mentoring component utilizes the I-Ready and Smart Start software programs and provides individual and group mentoring sessions to provide deeper insight towards assimilation and socialization in inner-city communities for future young leaders. We will identify promising young student-athletes who demonstrate academic and leadership potential, while supporting each participant through the struggles of adolescence and the transition to adulthood. There will be Saturday Academy and Holiday Academy for student-athletes and these participants will attend tutorials to address specific needs based on data collected and assessments for learning acquisition and enhancement
Our core athletic program will consist of basketball, as utilized to captivate and motivate youth in education, where the basketball court is the classroom/lab, where leadership, social and life skills are developed and nurtured. Additionally, we will support and refer our extremely proficient student’s to basketball programs on the middle school, high school and college levels, as well as AAU programs and summer tournaments/camps. Many students will attend Academic Resource Assist (A.R.A.) prior to basketball practice, where fundamental academic research and study is developed through individual and group tutorial sessions. Data binders with student assessments and identifiable goals that are realistic and measurable will follow the student throughout the program.
Every participant and family will receive individual counseling, support and guidance to assist in navigating through the New York City Department Of Education process to enhance the student’s preparedness to meet the challenges she/he may face. This support includes, support through the high school application process, test preparation, school visits and family workshops. Through our continued partnerships with local, regional and national basketball programs we will provide summer basketball camps, programs and tournaments designed to enhance basketball skills and ability.
We believe children can be the best they can be,
can define their future, and can change the world.