On June 27, 2013, YBN’s sister school Newark Leadership Academy (NLA), held its 2nd annual graduation at the Paul Robeson Campus Center in Newark, New Jersey. The energy in the room was high as graduates strode across the room to receive their high school diplomas, an achievement that many students had initially not believed possible.
The ceremony marked both the completion of what had been a labor-intensive journey for graduates and the start of a future brightened by the fact that they now possessed the tools they needed to build their lives. Ninety-five percent of NLA’s graduating seniors enrolled in postsecondary education institutions such as Essex County College and four-year colleges, and/or obtained employment.
Brianna Winbush graced the stage as the Academy’s 2012-2013 Valedictorian while Jadzia Cribb earned the title of Salutatorian. In addition to receiving their high school diplomas, students received numerous academic and vocational accolades, and for their embodiment of school values such as leadership and service, cultural awards. Marlon Peterson, Associate Director of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, delivered the charge to graduates. Having progressed from serving a jail sentence to serving as a leader within a community-based organization, his story is a prime example of how young adults can learn from their past experiences to recreate their lives and support their communities.
With additional seniors having met their graduation requirements in August, NLA graduated a total of 31 of its 35 seniors for the 2012 – 2013 school year – a graduation rate of 89%! The Academy’s increasing effectiveness in providing over-age and under-credited youth with a meaningful educational experience is largely due to its successful collaboration with Newark Public Schools (NPS) and YBN.