Within minutes of visiting Harlem Academy and meeting Head of School Vinny Dotoli ten years ago, Ann and Cameron MacRae knew something special was happening here – and they wanted to be a part of it. “We decided to support the school after that first visit,” says Mrs. MacRae, who joined our board of trustees in 2011. “Vinny is a visionary and Harlem Academy’s mission is unlike any other in the city. The school is transforming the lives of students at the highest level of excellence.”
Longtime believers in the importance of education, the MacRaes committed to supporting elementary schools in underserved communities as a way to honor their daughter Catherine, who they lost in the World Trade Center attacks. They founded the Cat MacRae Fund in 2001.
“Education was always a top priority for Cat, and we wanted to focus on education in a way that would have the most impact on low-income areas of New York City,” says Mr. MacRae.
“By far our greatest philanthropic efforts – both in terms of giving and overall commitment – are directed toward Harlem Academy,” he adds. “The school’s goal is to provide the same level of excellent education for underserved children as is available at the best private schools in the city. And it is succeeding amazingly.” The MacRaes are especially gratified to see the measurable academic impact of their generosity. Thanks to their support, Harlem Academy began using the Singapore Math program in 2008, a rigorous and challenging curriculum that teaches fewer topics in greater depth compared to typical math programs. Harlem Academy was the first school in Manhattan to adopt this program and showed double-digit growth in students’ quantitative reasoning scores in a single year. “It is thrilling for our family to see how effective the Singapore method is in teaching students math,” says Mrs. MacRae, who is also proud to serve on the board of a school that embraces students’ personal growth as much as their scholastic achievement.
“Not only is the academic program at Harlem Academy at the highest level, but there is also a tremendously strong emphasis on character development,” she says. “The four pillars of the school creed – initiative, integrity, compassion, and determination – are at the core of the students’ experience.”
Our students know firsthand how much Mrs. MacRae embodies the pillars herself. For the past 10 years, she has led lower school trips to the Metropolitan Museum, where she was a docent for 18 years. “Not only do I get to share my love of the Met’s collection with the students, I also develop a connection with the children,” she says. “Over the years, I have watched them grow from little first-graders in awe of the cavernous museum to confident and proud eighth- graders, ready to take on the world. The experience has been deeply rewarding for me.”
As they think about the future and our students’ place in it, the MacRaes are excited by what’s to come. “Our hope is that they continue to work hard and excel in a challenging world, incorporating the four pillars into their everyday lives, and developing their potential to its very fullest,” says Mrs. MacRae.