Making their Mark
Harlem Academy alumni continue to contribute and lead in their communities. We caught up with some recent graduates to hear how they are making their mark.
This fall, Mariah Bell ’13 enrolled as a freshman at New York University. After graduating from Harlem Academy, Mariah quickly became a leader at the Hotchkiss School, where her extracurricular roles included serving as head of Students for Environmental Action, board member of the astronomy club, and co-leader of Café, an affinity group for young women of color. This summer, she returned to her roots and volunteered as an alumni intern at Harlem Academy.
One of Mariah’s most creative achievements was launching a new school magazine called Spectrum during her senior year at Hotchkiss. Mariah not only came up with the concept for the magazine, she also solicited material, designed, edited, and contributed essays and artwork to every issue.
“I noticed that there were not many outlets for students to freely express their opinions about current events and the state of the world,” says Mariah. “I wanted the magazine to represent not just the spectrum of students’ ideas, but also the range of how we express ourselves. People sent us poems, stories, essays, art, photography. In our last issue, we even had someone submit music. We printed a bar code that readers could scan and listen to the song. It was important to me to be able to handle every type of self-expression.”
Mariah credits her time at Harlem Academy for inspiring her to create Spectrum. “At Harlem Academy, there’s a strong sense of community where everyone really knows and respects each other’s opinions” she shares. “In high school, it becomes harder to express yourself. I thought back to my HA classes – especially learning creative writing, poetry, and art – and realized that I have the tools to be honest and express myself powerfully. I got excited about helping other Hotchkiss students express themselves in creative ways.”
“Harlem Academy’s school creed is something that follows you,” she continues. “I used those lessons to guide my decisions in high school, and I’m sure I will continue to use them in the future.”
During her freshman year at Manhattanville College, Indigo Moore ’12 worked as a homeless outreach volunteer. “There are multiple opportunities to give back to the local community and beyond,” she says. “My favorite activity is the Midnight Run, when we make care packages for the homeless and hand them out at designated spots in the city. We also provide warm soup and hot chocolate. The best part of volunteering is engaging with the homeless and letting them know they are not alone. It makes me happy knowing I can help make the world a better place at such a personal level.”
Kira Brown ’14 serves on the Admissions Council and Orientation Staff at the Stony Brook School, where she gives campus tours to prospective students. “Harlem Academy’s school creed inspired me to take opportunities to lead,” she says. “Running campus tours is a big responsibility because I’m representing the school, not just myself. I like to give a good first impression of Stony Brook to new students.”
This experience has also helped Kira learn to balance school work with extracurricular activities. “I give tours during my free periods, which means I have to choose between studying and leading tours,” she explains. “Being on the Admissions Council takes dedication. I have to remember that Harlem Academy taught me to balance and stay on top of my school work and volunteer work.”
High school senior Jahi-Aamir Gaulman ’14 performs in two theater productions per school year as part of Lower Manhattan Arts Academy’s Theater Ensemble. “I've always gotten a rush from being on stage, having the spotlight hit my face, and hearing the loud cheering from my classmates in the audience,” he says.
Jahi also appreciates the sense of community that comes from being part of a theater troupe. “The casts I've worked with are always fun, loving, and caring. We work very hard and consider each other family.”
In his junior year at Cardinal Hayes High School, Joseph Rivera ’14 was elected vice president of the Latin Dance club. “Being in a leadership position for students who are the same age as you is challenging and interesting at the same time,” he says. “I have gained a new respect for my teachers. It's not easy teaching a bunch of teenagers. Being in this position expanded my patience and humility. It also gives me a sense of pride in my fellow club members because I've seen the progress they've made by attending long and exhausting practices.”
Brianna Turner-Douglas ’14 has been involved in the Multicultural Alliance (MCA) at the Peddie School since her freshman year of high school. “MCA has been a safe haven for me,” she says, “a place where you can talk about the hardships and struggles people of color face, a place where you can celebrate your own culture and learn about others.”
Now a senior, Brianna recently took on a leadership role with MCA, leading group discussions on topics that are not usually addressed at the school, planning trips to culturally enriching events, and mentoring underclassmen. “I was inspired to become a leader after a conversation with Mr. Dotoli,” says Brianna. “He helped me realize that I could create a welcoming atmosphere for my classmates like I found when I first came to MCA.”
During his freshman year at Rabun Gap, RayJon Grayson ’16 joined the P.E.A.C.E. (Peer Educating, Advocating, Caring, Empowering) team. As a member of this student-run community service organization, RayJon volunteers at a local food bank, assists with school chapel services, and hosts afterschool and weekend events for his classmates.
RayJon was also selected by his teachers to join the Gap Guide team. “We give campus tours to prospective students, invite them to shadow us in classes, and host overnight visits so they get a feel for dorm life,” RayJon says. “I was not a campus Gap Guide at first, but after hosting one shadow, the administration team liked my work and asked me to start hosting more. I will become an official Gap Guide starting this year. I enjoy holding leadership roles at my school because it’s important to help out my community. That’s something I learned at Harlem Academy.”