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The graduating students at Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA), an all-girls charter school in New York, are off to college — all of them. The first graduating class boasts an impressive 100% college acceptance rate for its 50 students.
The school focuses on girls from underserved and marginalized communities, and is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Over 90% of the girls at BELA self-identify as Black.
Hosting a “college shower” for the students, BELA recently celebrated the achievement by providing college gear for the graduating young women, including duffel bags, dorm supplies, and headphones. Nicia Fullwood, the co-founder and director of the school, also addressed the seniors at the celebration.
BELA makes history
“Today, you are rewriting history and contributing to the legacy of District 16 of Bedford-Stuyvesant,” said Ms. Fullwood. “We’ve always said that you all were destined for greatness; that you’d change the world in ways we could never imagine. Despite your non-traditional senior year, today, we celebrate all of you.”
BELA’s mission is to “empower each young woman to be the best version of herself,” and BELA’s four core values are: Sisterhood, Scholarship, Strength, and Service. The class of 2021 is the first to graduate from the prestigious all-girls school. BELA is the only all-girls school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
Opening in 2017, BELA is a unique model for a college preparatory high school. Each day begins with a Sisterhood Circle which is “an opportunity for us to gather as a community and talk about why we’re here, and the rewriting of the narrative of what it means to be a Black and Brown young woman in Bedford-Stuyvesant,” confirmed Ms. Fullwood, who co-founded the school with Shannon Riley.
“Forces to be reckoned with”
The senior class students, 75% of whom will be the first in their families to attend college, applied to over 150 colleges and universities across the country. Altogether, the girls received nearly $1 million in scholarships.
The valedictorian of the class, Nyasia Bailey, plans to enter Sarah Lawrence college to study journalism. According to Ms. Bailey, “As a Black woman, it just feels like we’re really overlooked. Through writing and film, I want to be able to tell our stories and share what we’re going through, because some people just don’t want to hear it from us.”
In the final moments of her valedictorian speech, Ms. Bailey also empowered her classmates and recognized their achievements. “We are forces to be reckoned with. I see all my sisters’ strengths shine through and I’m excited to see us run the world in the near future, together!”