Harlem Academy Trustee Rodney Pope recognizes talent and drive when he sees it – traits that he says were on full display last year when he held practice interviews with Harlem Academy middle schoolers preparing for secondary school applications. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, can I hire these kids?’” says Rodney, senior vice president, employee relations at Turner Construction.
The mock interviews were just one of the ways he and Turner Construction have supported Harlem Academy over the years. Rodney has led Turner’s volunteer participation for more than a decade and joined the board of trustees in 2017. He currently serves on the board’s campus committee, which provides strategic oversight and construction planning for Harlem Academy’s new campus at 655 St. Nicholas Avenue.
Rodney was immediately inspired when Peter Davoren, his company’s CEO, introduced him to Harlem Academy. “Upon my first visit, I was struck by the dedication and enthusiasm of the teachers and Head of School Vinny Dotoli,” he says. “Most important, I saw the students’ eagerness to learn. That’s what spurred me to become a supporter.”
He saw something else in the students: himself. “I went to public school in Bedford-Stuyvesant with little support, so Harlem Academy’s mission to drive equity of opportunity resonates with me,” says Rodney. “I wish I’d had a school like this when I was a child. It makes a difference when children know that everyone at their school cares about them and their success.”
Rodney spearheads his company’s participation in Chess Buddies and Personal Library Fairs, volunteer programs that bring Harlem Academy supporters and students together in fun ways. Whether employees are reading a book with a student or matching wits over a game of chess, they love every minute of it. “They constantly ask me, ‘When are we going back?’” he says. “We believe that supporting education is the greatest impact our organization can make, especially in the communities where we live and build projects,” says Rodney. “Once you are educated, no one can take that away from you.”
Rodney is excited about Harlem Academy’s next chapter – our new campus. “Inviting classrooms, learning labs, a great library, a welcoming entrance – it’s a big deal. Children need the right environment to learn. The new building, coupled with the exceptional education that Harlem Academy provides, will attract many more students for years to come. I’m proud to be a part of this school and its important mission.”