It may be called the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, but the supplemental education program is working with many motivated Bronx children from middle school to college.
HEAF identifies children in middle school who are not eligible for gifted and talented programs but who the organization believes can become even better students throughout extra enrichment and support.
Through a commitment of after school programs, Saturdays and summers, HEAF students are provided with additional opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them in public school, in a learning style that is more hands on and student-centered, said HEAF CEO and president Danielle Moss.
“We are focused on kids who are the forgotten middle, who are performing at the basic level of proficiency and are not gifted and talented or in need of remediation,” Moss said. “Our idea is that with additional support and enrichment they could become higher achieving students.”
The program accepts students when they are in middle school, identifying them through their teachers, and requires a substantial time commitment.
When they are ready for college, the students are guided through the application and acceptance process, and receiving ongoing support when they are at school, even if they choose an out-of-state college like 19-year-old Baychester resident and HEAF program participant Christopher Whyte.
“HEAF was my savior when it came college applications,” Whyte said, a biology major at Wheaton College. “The program showed us how to maneuver through filling out the applications, interviews, and getting financial aid. Doing it on my own would have definitely been possible, but it was a lot easier knowing that HEAF had my back.”
Whyte’s mother Andrea Whyte, who also enrolled her other two children in HEAF, said that the expectation of going to college is there from as early as the 6th grade, when students begin to take tours of college campuses.
“The staff at HEAF really motivates them to consider going to college at a young age, and takes them through the process,” Andrea Whyte said. “While the children are working things like school retreats and team building, the parents work together and get support from each other to keep the children motivated.”
HEAF keeps students engaged in learning through activities such as a mystery writing class that helps them sharpen writing skills, marine biology in the outdoors to learn science, robotics and also supplemental classes that prepare students for the SAT exam.
“The idea is to expose our students beyond the curriculum and get them excited about learning even more,” Moss said. “If you are in school all day, you should have a more hands on experience that is student centered at HEAF.”
Founded 22 years ago, HEAF boasts a 95% college completion rate in six years, with 35% of HEAF students going onto graduate school. The program serves 500 students. To contact HEAF, call (212) 663-9732.