Harlem Lacrosse’s mission is to empower the children who are most at risk for academic decline and dropout to rise above their challenges and reach their full potential. Harlem Lacrosse inspires children to dream about tomorrow while working hard on the field and in the classroom today.


Who we serve

Harlem Lacrosse actively recruits special education students and students identified by school administrators as most vulnerable to academic decline and school dropout. As a result, Harlem Lacrosse serves high poverty and special education students at rates that surpass those of our school sites.

Our Students


53% of students are male and 47% of students are female


Identify as African-American, Hispanic, or multi-racial


Speak a language other than English at home

Percentage of Students Qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch


All students at Harlem Lacrosse School Sites


Percentage of Students Receiving Special Education Services




Why Lacrosse?

Lacrosse is at the heart of Harlem Lacrosse’s “college-going culture” and holistic approach to developing the social emotional skill sets of the children we serve. The sport of lacrosse is unique in its emphasis on elite college competition as the goal of every young lacrosse player. The team culture, perseverance, grit, and confidence that Harlem Lacrosse emphasizes translates directly into the classroom and our students’ personal lives.

History & Growth

In 2008, Harlem Lacrosse Co-Founder Simon Cataldo joined the faculty of Frederick Douglass Academy I (FDA) in Harlem as a Special Education math teacher with Teach for America. Simon struggled in his first year and introduced lacrosse as a way to engage his most academically and behaviorally challenged students.

With eleven students and ten sticks, the team took the field and Simon had a revelation: that by coaching, encouraging and motivating students on the field, he was then able to accomplish great things with them in the classroom. At the end of the school year, Simon's players posted the highest scores on the state math test by Special Education students in FDA's history.

When the team grew to 35 students in 2011, Harlem Lacrosse was formed to create a holistic youth services organization around the idea that what students need to reach their full personal potential is to be immersed in an activity that they take pride in, led by a caring mentor, tutor and coach who can help them build confidence and skill sets on the field and in the classroom.


From 2012-2016, Harlem Lacrosse added at least one program each year growing to serve over 400 students by the fall of 2016 including expansion sites in Boston and Baltimore.  In January of 2017, Harlem Lacrosse added more than 250 boys and girls through its merger with City Lacrosse (now Harlem Lacrosse Los Angeles) and in September, Harlem Lacrosse launched its first programs in Philadelphia thanks to the generous support of the Live Like Blaine Foundation.  Harlem Lacrosse now serves over 850 students nationwide across nineteen programs in five cities. 

Since 2011, Harlem Lacrosse students have maintained a 100% on-time middle school graduation rate, have passed their classes at a rate 20% higher than that of their peers at our school sites, and have earned over $15 million scholarship offers to independent schools and colleges. 

Harlem Lacrosse alumni have earned admission with scholarships to institutions including Bates College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Gettysburg College, Haverford College, Hobart College, Tufts University, the University of Virginia, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.