Harlem – Eagle Academy’s soaring swagger turning boys into men

Bronx-based public school for young black males opens first Harlem outpost.

Julius Pugh is already seeing the changes in himself since he started at the  all-boys Eagle Academy for Young Men in Harlem this school year.

“I was being disrespectful,” said Julius, an 11-year-old sixth-grader who  attended Public School 123 last year before shifting to the new academy. “I  would catch an attitude (with the teachers).”

But now, Julius added, “I realized that somebody is actually trying to help  me.”

Julius — who hopes to be a chef — is doing so well that he’s tapped to  address the class of 2020 during the school’s opening ceremony this week.

Principal Mahaliel Bethea and his standout student Julius Pugh.

Principal Mahaliel Bethea and his standout student Julius Pugh.

After encouraging his classmates to follow their dreams, he got a standing  ovation.

“I never got one before,” he said.

 The public school, on Edgecombe Ave. near W. 135th St., is the first Harlem  outpost of a program that began in the South Bronx in 2004 and expanded to  Brownsville, South Jamaica and Newark before opening in Harlem.

The goal is to get young black males to graduate.

“This is the population that is not graduating from school,” said David  Banks, the president and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, referring to the  poor 52% graduation rate for black males in city public schools.

Eagle Academy follows the same basic curriculum, gets instructors from the  same pool of union teachers and gets the same amount of city per-student funding  as other public schools — but the program never loses sight of its core  constituency: black males ages 11 to 18.

The school also recruits mentors for the students and emphasizes family  engagement more than other public schools.

The intensity is embodied by the school’s unofficial motto: SWAG, an  educational take on a slang street term that at Harlem Academy means, “Sit up.  Watch the speaker. Answer and ask questions. Give 100% effort.”

“This school is the best thing that’s happened for young black men in New  York City in the last 10 years,” said Francis Kairson Jr., 67, of Harlem.

Actor Malik Yoba of “New York Undercover” was so impressed by the school  that he sends his 11-year-old, Josiah, there.

“It’s off to a good start,” said the actor. “We liked what they were  offering.”

For now, the 65-member sixth-grade class only takes up half of the third  floor of the Percy Sutton Educational Complex. But by 2020, the sixth through  12th grade academy will  reach its full capacity.

“I see this school being a pillar in this community,” said Bronx native and  founding Principal Mahaliel Bethea.

mfeeney@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/eagle-academy-opens-harlem-article-1.1471957#ixzz2gQ2Wg3E8

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