Keeping Busy: HLL Student-Athletes Working Hard, Seeking Boarding School Placement

HARLEM, NEW YORK CITY  -  When current 8th grade laxer Malcolm A. spent time at a nearby boarding school during a summer lacrosse camp, he knew he had witnessed something special. “The school was so spread out,” Malcolm would later tell his coaches. “The food was delicious, and it looked like the perfect place to learn and have fun.” Many students like Malcolm have such an experience with HLL. HLL currently researches secondary school placement options outside of Frederick Douglass Academy for about a dozen students. “With more funding in the future, HLL hopes to expand admissions counseling services to all of our students,” says HLL Founder Simon Cataldo. Many of the dozen current applicants formerly had failing grades but have been motivated to increase their GPAs by the prospect of attending top boarding high schools. Jake Klein, Program Director at HLL, explains: “We believe that every child in our program - regardless of learning style, economic privilege or lack thereof, and hardships faced at home - deserves a chance at an excellent education, be it in public school or private school. This education should fit the individuals needs of the student and the family.” [gallery]

In the last year, the program successfully placed three students at two highly prestigious schools. In order to repeat that same success, those families seeking out private educational options meet with HLL staff mid-summer. As the months wear on, boys find themselves partaking in extensive SSAT standardized test prep with an individual HLL tutor and essay prep workshops with Columbia SIPA tutors. The process of applying to a private school, particularly a boarding school, is one that requires immense effort on the part of the child’s family and not just the boy alone. Deadlines are very tight, and families travel up and down the highway (with coaches and family) to tour and interview at schools.

Students like Malcolm cannot just attend any boarding school. Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership staff carefully evaluate every aspect of a target institution, particularly their capacity to handle boys who may need support and structure to overcome certain academic or even social difficulties. Once HLL sees enough of a school to deem it “a perfect fit” for a particular student, they begin working with the school’s admissions staff to arrange a meeting with the student. In the weeks before the visit, players prepare for interviews using specific interview training methods from their HLL coaches. “We want them to get the most out of these visits,” explains Klein. “While we recognize that school selection is mostly about the institution impressing the prospective attendee, we know our boys also have to make a great impression too.” So far, these hardworking HLL student-athletes are doing just that.