Character Counts at Harlem Village Academies

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Outstanding Middle School By John Friia "At HVA, we believe that teachers, not programs, are the key drivers of student achievement, and by tapping into the knowledge, talent and passion of teachers, we can achieve groundbreaking results," Chief of Staff Matt Scott said. Scott explained that the goal at HVA is to guide students to become intellectually sophisticated, compassionate and wholesome in character, so when they graduate from college, they will make a meaningful contribution to society. Since its founding, HVA has opened several different branches encompassing an elementary, middle and high school. Within the elementary and middle schools, there is a leadership academy that prepares students for the future. "Harlem Village Academies offers a college preparatory program," Scott said. He explained that the program includes longer school days so students can master their skills and think about what they are learning. The curriculum has a rich liberal-arts base and encourages students to become lifelong readers. For students, the college preparatory process starts in the fifth grade, with annual college trips at the end of the year. HVA Middle School has 293 students in the fifth through eighth grades. The graduation rate is higher than at other public schools, and with the college process starting earlier, a higher percentage of the students go on to college. Numerous after-school programs include sports, chess, karate, computer programming, cooking and dance. For students who need extra help, there is a homework center and they can also come in on Saturdays. Another important part of Harlem Village Academy's vision is giving back to the community. "The students contribute to the community in a number of ways. For example, high school students are currently discussing Hurricane Sandy's impact on New York City and determining how they can help, while middle school students are conducting a canned food drive," Scott said. Students at HVA embrace the unique and safe learning environment, including school uniforms and a clear code of conduct, which reflects their commitment to a culture of respect and serious scholarship. Shanequa, an eighth-grader at Harlem Village Academies Middle School, said, "Coming to HVA changed my character. Now I take responsibility for my actions and I have self-control. This school's organization, the good support from each of my teachers, and the consequences you get for your actions really helped me with my discipline. HVA is preparing me for my future." Harlem Village Academies offers the youths the chance to obtain an exceptionally education that will provide them the opportunity to become leaders for the next generation.

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