Ruby Avila started at Harlem Academy in first grade with a determined attitude. She quickly emerged as a productive and popular member of the class. By the end of second grade, she was thriving within our rigorous, engaging environment and earning strong grades.
Then in 2009, Ruby’s mom Luisa Sanchez came to us with difficult news. As much as her family loved Harlem Academy, a job transfer required that they relocate to a small town outside of Albany. We bid farewell to Ruby, confident that she would perform strongly at her new school.
Fast forward to 2013. Luisa moved back to New York City and asked to reenroll Ruby at Harlem Academy. Luisa shared with us that while Ruby had done well at her school upstate, she was worried that Ruby might have some gaps in math and writing. The assessments administered as part of our admissions process indeed reflected these concerns. Nonetheless, our admissions committee saw in Ruby exactly what we look for in a student – talent, motivation, and potential. She earned the only open spot in our seventh-grade class.
While Ruby retained many of the habits we develop in our youngest students, she began her return to Harlem Academy with a low-B average, underscoring how much ground she had lost. Her first standardized test scores confirmed this further. She had potential, but was not performing at the level needed to earn a scholarship to a top private secondary school where we knew she would thrive.
Ruby met this setback with focus and determination. She worked harder in class. She dedicated more time to homework. She sought extra help and spent hour after hour on advanced reading, writing, and reasoning. Her personal drive, the support of her mom, and the guidance of dedicated teachers began to pay off. By the end of seventh grade, her grades rose to a high-B average. By eighth grade, she was earning A's and was again among the class leaders.
Mirroring this growth, when she took the standardized admissions tests for private high schools, she achieved an increase of 26 percentile points from her scores when she first returned.
On March 10, Ruby received recognition of her hard work. Waiting in her inbox was a scholarship offer from the Peddie School, one of the top 20 boarding schools in the nation. For Ruby, this not only gives her the chance to thrive in a new environment, but it will open doors and continue to shape her life’s journey.
When asked where Ruby gets her drive, her mom confided, “Ruby is aware that you can’t take things for granted. Sometimes we visit family in Honduras, and some of them don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Here Ruby sees the people around her — me, her grandmother, her teachers — all working hard. She sees where that hard work can lead and is very focused on that for herself.”
Ruby’s story demonstrates the transformational power of our program. Harlem Academy gives talented students the core skills, rigorous academic environment, and the habits to fully realize their potential.