School Culture

Pillars and School Creed

Our focus on preparing students to maximize their potential is guided by four community pillars: initiative, integrity, compassion, and determination. The school creed is an aspirational statement that encourages every student to continue striving for growth and guides students in decision-making, serving as the foundation for a perpetual cycle of learning, reflection, and improvement. Daily practices and traditions reinforce these values.

Each verse ties to one of the four pillars:

List of 4 items.

  • Initiative

    I am bold and creative.
    I take opportunities to lead.
    I seek help when I need it.
  • Integrity

    I am honest and reflective.
    I choose to do what is right,
    Even when it is hard or no one is watching.
  • Compassion

    I listen carefully.
    I speak kindly.
    I care for my community.
  • Determination

    I make the most of each day.
    I learn from my mistakes.
    I don't give up.

Community Meeting

The Community Meeting is among Harlem Academy’s most cherished traditions. Held weekly in both the lower school and middle school, the meeting begins with a teacher’s greeting and the recitation of the School Thanksgiving:

We are thankful for friendship and good health,
For our school and our teachers,
And for the families who have given us our homes.
We are thankful for the differences that help us learn,
And the common purposes that bring us together.
We are thankful for our city, our country, and the world around us,
For a hope to be shared with all people,
And the trials which help us to know ourselves.
(Adapted from Camp Timanous, Raymond, ME)

The meeting continues with teachers formally commending the positive contributions of students who exhibited exemplary behavior or growth. A weekly message then examines an aspect of the school creed, emphasizing the habits most critical to students’ success. To close the meeting, community members shake hands, recite the creed, and share a quiet moment for reflection before a silent recessional.

Each fourth and eighth-grade student has a chance to lead a community meeting where they share a message about how the pillars and creed can be put into action in our daily lives.

Guiding Principles

Underlying all of our decision-making is a set of guiding principles. We shape our curriculum, instructional techniques, and school culture to express the principles - model, respect, engage, inspire, challenge, and advance - in both our overarching program design and our day-to-day actions.


We live the school pillars and creed knowing that we create a powerful lever for change when we model the habits we seek to develop in our students and commit to working with common purpose toward the realization of the school’s mission.


We build genuine relationships with students, families, and colleagues, recognizing and honoring the full complexity of the individuals in our community.  We develop the skills our students and graduates need to overcome challenges, contribute to change, and thrive in a diverse society.  We understand the impact of institutional racism and educational inequity and strive to be an anti-racist organization.


We incorporate programming that is intellectually engaging, culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and experiential.  We foster meaningful connection with our local neighborhoods, the rest of New York City, the natural environment, and the broader world, including a limitless view of future academic and career opportunities for our students.


We push agency to the students in active, observable ways, leaving space for independent thinking, choice, collaboration, reflection, and self-correction.  In supervision, we are warm but demanding and believe in purpose not power. We use the least invasive interventions, assign logical consequences, and nurture students’ mission-aligned, long-term goals.


We believe that growth happens when our students face genuine challenges that are overcome with sustained effort. We understand our differentiated mission to support promising students and perpetually focus on driving achievement to the highest academic levels.


We identify core skills needed for growth, achievement, contribution, and wellness.  We build those skills with enough meaningful practice across multiple grades for our students to develop transferable and lifelong habits.
Harlem Academy
655 St. Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY, 10030

P (212) 348-2600
F (212) 348-3500

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Harlem Academy is an independent school (grades K-8) that drives equity of opportunity for promising students, guiding them to thrive at the highest academic levels and one day make a mark on the world.