Tom and Sera Reycraft first became involved at Harlem Academy in 2006 and have remained among our most committed supporters. Since 2009, Tom has served on the board of trustees and has chaired the committee on trustees, playing a key role in shaping the school’s growth and success during the last decade.
A SPECIAL CONNECTION
Harlem Academy’s mission to drive equity of opportunity resonated on a personal level for Tom. “My father was given an opportunity to attend a private independent day school on a scholarship, and that was the break he needed to rise out of poverty,” he explains. “I decided to support the school because I really believe in its mission to target high-potential kids who might otherwise be overlooked.”
For Sera, Harlem Academy’s leadership and size were strong draws. “Vinny Dotoli, the head of school, had a clear vision for what he wanted to accomplish and the drive to see it through,” she says. “Tom and I also liked the scale of the school. Whatever you do to support Harlem Academy has a direct and meaningful impact on the students.”
As founders of the Benchmark Education Company, which publishes PreK-12 literacy resources, the Reycrafts understand what is needed to support student growth. “Harlem Academy’s focus on high expectations serves children well,” says Tom. “In our work at Benchmark, Sera and I have learned that children can accomplish great things, but only if they are encouraged, supported, and expectations are high. When you lower the bar for excellence, performance quickly drops.”
The couple appreciates the power of rigorous early education for children from underserved communities – a belief that is at the core of everything Harlem Academy strives to achieve. “Research shows the importance of educating students early in life,” says Tom. “Once past middle school, the die is cast. So catching these students early can make an enormous difference in their lives.”
MAKING A GREATER IMPACT
That’s why the Reycrafts are thrilled by what’s ahead for Harlem Academy: a new, permanent home at 655 St. Nicholas Avenue that will include kindergarten for the first time. “We’ve accomplished so much in the school’s current setting, but I have no doubt that the new campus will further strengthen the program and the success of the children,” says Tom.
They are particularly excited about the expansion of the school’s library, which will support our extraordinary reading culture. “A library is perhaps the most important room in a school,” says Sera, publisher of her own children’s book line, Reycraft Books. “It creates opportunities for deeper learning.”
With a new, bigger campus comes greater impact. The Reycrafts look forward to Harlem Academy being able to serve and graduate twice as many students – and to spending time with more of them. “Any time Sera and I can connect with the students on an individual level, we can’t help but get excited about all that Harlem Academy does,” says Tom.