Meet Elite Learners: A Small Nonprofit with a Big Impact

Brooklyn, N.Y. With public housing projects towering in the background, Brooklyn-based Elite Learners held its annual bookbag and school supplies giveaway event on a warm August afternoon, a week before the city’s public schools opened for the 2019 – 2020 school year.

The youth development organization, headquartered in the economically struggling and violence-prone Brownsville neighborhood, held the event on August 27 at the Langston Hughes public housing courtyard, on historic Belmont Avenue. The festivities included a live DJ, food and a bicycle raffle.

Dozens gathered at Elite Learners' festive bookbag giveaway event.

Dozens gathered at Elite Learners’ festive bookbag giveaway event.

 

A party clown thrilled kids with face painting.

A party clown thrilled kids with face painting.

 

Two lucky children went home with a new bicycle.

Two lucky children went home with a new bicycle.

“Every child deserves the chance to get off to a great start this school year,” said Camara Jackson, founder and executive director of Elite Learners. “With help from our partners, Elite Learners will make every effort to see that happen.”

Bookbags were filled with school supplies.

Bookbags were filled with school supplies.

Launched in 2016, Elite Learners has made an amazing impact in a short period, delivering a range of much-needed programs and services in Brownsville and other struggling communities throughout New York City. Most of its programming centers on education, youth development and mentorship.

Jackson, who earned her stripes working with at-risk youth in the city’s massive public school and juvenile justice systems, is the force behind the organization. Under her leadership, Elite Learners offers several high-quality educational programs.

Executive Director Camara Jackson delivers opening remarks.

Executive Director Camara Jackson delivers opening remarks.

Mentorship is at the core of Elite Learners’ programing. Through Elite Girls to Queens, adult female mentors help girls in the program to build self-esteem and confidence while teaching them how to navigate their way around the hidden pitfall of adolescence. The organization also empowers boys through its Brothers Bonded program, in which adult male role models focus on boys who have either fallen through the cracks at school or find themselves entangled in the juvenile court system.

Participants in the Elite Girls to Queens program hang out.

Participants in the Elite Girls to Queens program hang out.

Its Mentorship Through Robotics program, designed to provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) training, is one of the most popular programs among educators and parents. They recognize that students who master science and technology will have almost endless career and entrepreneurial opportunities in the future.

Students master STEM skills in the Elite Robotics program.

Students master STEM skills in the Elite Robotics program.

Elite Learners has emerged as one of Brownsville’s anchors in the community. During an interview with WPIX-TV, New York City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who represents Brownsville, pointed to Elite Learners as one of the organizations in her district that is helping to turn things around.

Take a look below at a Twitter video post from WPIX-TV’s Monica Morales’ segment titled “Brownsville on the Rise” that highlights Elite Learners’ work in the community.

Unfortunately, kids growing up in Brownsville typically encounter pockets of violence in their community. While the neighborhood’s violent-crime rate has reduced significantly over the past three decades, violence in Brownsville still stands at nearly double the city’s overall average, according to the Brooklyn Eagle, a boroughwide newspaper.

Elite Learners was on the frontline, alongside other community stakeholders, in an anti-violence march after a mass shooting in July. A gunman allegedly shot and killed one person and injured 11 others during Brownsville’s annual Old Timers community party. In the aftermath, Jackson has been instrumental in helping to build the Brownsville Rapid Response Coalition with other activist groups and local lawmakers.

Elite Learnes' Executive Director Camara Jackson helped to spearhead an anti-violence coalition.

Elite Learners’ Executive Director Camara Jackson helped to spearhead an anti-violence coalition.

 

Activists, elected officials and community stakeholders rallied against gun violence after a mass shooting.

Activists, elected officials and community stakeholders rallied against gun violence after a mass shooting.

“Together, we must provide a safe environment for our children to flourish,” said Jackson, a Brownsville native who continues to live in the community.

To that end, Elite Leaners has organized several anti-violence programs, including conflict mediation and the training of volunteers for its Violence Interrupter program. The organization also offers related services—such as job search development, GED tutoring and mental health counseling—to newly released offenders returning to the community from incarceration. Without those services, there’s a high rate of recidivism.

Jackson stated: “There’s much work to be done. Enabling the next generation to succeed is key to improving our community. Elite Learners is committed to helping children and teens to reach their full potential in a safe, nurturing environment.”

 

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Nigel Roberts
Nigel Roberts is the Communications Committee Chair of the J. Luce Foundation. He's also a communications consultant and freelance writer. His clients have included (now retired) U.S. Congressman Ed Towns.

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