A Message From Our Founder

Dear Supporters, Partners, and Friends:

We have important news to share with you.

In the spring of 2011, when I was a special education teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem with Teach for America, I came up with a concept that I thought might help my students.  We would recruit the children identified by the school as most at risk for academic decline and dropout, and help them relentlessly pursue their full potential through full-day, year-round classroom intervention, leadership training, and lacrosse coaching.  The name: Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership.  It seemed like a good description of what I wanted to do with the kids in my school who needed the most support.

We formed a non-profit and put that idea into action.  It worked.  (Here's the data to prove it.)  It worked so well that our model started spreading.  First from just boys to girls too.  Then to public schools throughout Harlem, with the support of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone.  Then to East Baltimore.  This fall we’re moving closer to my home, to two schools in Dorchester and Mattapan, Massachusetts.  And in the fall of 2017, we’ll be launching two more girls programs in inner-city Philadelphia with a capital investment from the Live Like Blaine Foundation.  Along the way, we have received support from some of the most sophisticated philanthropic donors in our cities, received national press, and recruited an incredibly accomplished and diverse group of employees who are dedicating themselves full-time to our mission. 

With that awesome growth has come an awesome challenge.  Our burgeoning organization has outgrown the name Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership.  It’s time to change it.

We’ve solicited input from our New York-based supporters and our partners in our new cities, and we retained an esteemed advertising firm, Terri and Sandy, pro bono, to help us create a new brand architecture.  The challenge: to cultivate a brand that incorporates our new geographies while maintaining our brand equity and staying true to our organizational ethos.

Here’s the result:

So, you’ve probably noticed—we kept “Harlem Lacrosse,” and we dropped "& Leadership." 

Here’s my shorthand explanation for why we’ve arrived at this result:

  • For our new brand, we wanted to communicate a feeling, not just a description.  There are two words that, when placed beside one another, connote our organizational ethos: Harlem, and Lacrosse.  On the ground, our model combines the grit, determination, and service-focused attitude of the Harlem community with the respect, academic aspiration, and yes, access to opportunities, fostered within the lacrosse community.
  • The words Harlem and Lacrosse are unlikely neighbors, but the result of their combination has created a beautiful synergy.  Likewise, our work is based in a singularly unique approach (full-day, year-round, school-based intervention), targeting students that few other organizations work with, in a place no one would expect.  That is a concept and a feeling that transcends geographies.
  • Like you, we’ve grown to love the name Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership, but we often call ourselves “Harlem Lacrosse” for shorthand.  So the new name feels familiar to us.
  • Dropping “& Leadership” creates the real estate to include our new geographies.  It’s important to us, and our local supporters, that part of the brand name reflects the community-focused aspect of our work. 

Here’s what won’t change: our core values.

We will continue to deliberately and strategically recruit students with special needs, English language learners, and those with the biggest challenges at home into our program.

We will continue to devote our resources to the school-based, full-day, year-round approach that makes our organization unique and that drives our students’ measurable results

We will continue to act upon our school-, family-, community-, and service-first, lacrosse-second mission.  You can continue to count us as a "change the game" organization—as in changing the game for our students, our schools, and our communities—not a "grow the game" organization.

We will continue to do all this, and our students will continue to succeed, because of your support.  Our employees continue to work 70-hour weeks (or more) and leave it all out on the classroom and the field.  Your generosity is essential to our success.  So please keep believing in us, keep believing in our kids, and keep helping us change the game for our students.

Here's what's next: our new website launches today, and, moving forward, including at our Annual Benefit at the Waldorf Astoria, we will be using the new brand.

Feel free to email me at simon@harlemlacrosse.org with your thoughts, ideas, and criticism (or just an electronic high five, if you’re so inclined).

With much appreciation and great anticipation,







Simon Cataldo
President and Founder
Harlem Lacrosse

Simon CataldoComment