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Liberty LEADS

Liberty LEADS at Bank Street College is a New York City-based and college access program that has served over 1500 students between 5th and 12th grade since 1989. Founded to empower at-risk and underrepresented youth, our program makes an impact in the lives of students every day by helping them attain higher education, embrace leadership engagement, and create a positive future for themselves and others.

Our Mission

To provide underserved youth with access to the resources necessary to realize their potential and make positive contributions to society.

Our Students

The majority of our students are children of color and come from low-income families in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx:

  • 96% are eligible for free/reduced price school meals
  • 68% Latino, 23% African-American/Black, 2% Asian, 4% Multiracial, and 3% White
  • 68% come from households where English is not the main language spoken
  • 9% are current or former English Language Learners (ELLs)
  • 18% have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Research shows that disadvantaged youth face challenges that can impede their academic success, social-emotional development, on-time high school graduation, and ability to succeed in college and career.1  For nearly three decades, our program has worked to successfully address these risk factors.

Students in our program graduate from high school at higher rates than their peers. In 2016, 100% of Liberty LEADS high school seniors graduated on time, compared to the 65% graduation rate among Black and Latino students in New York City. In addition to graduating high school, many Liberty LEADS students matriculate into college—in 2016, 94% of them were admitted and started college. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend an institution of higher education.

Our Program

Most students enter Liberty LEADS in 5th, 7th, or 9th grade and continue through high school graduation. Students attend our program several days during the week as well as regularly on Saturdays, and also have access to our summer camp programming. Over 55% of our students are referred to us on the basis of academic challenges and are directed toward Liberty LEADS to receive the support they need to thrive as learners and reach their full potential.

Program Highlights:

  • Social-emotional: Promotes the social and emotional development of our students and equips them with the skills they need to be effective problem-solvers, communicate their needs efficiently, and build leadership skills.
  • College preparation: Offers college tours, financial aid workshops, college admission advisement, transition workshops, and one- on-one support to ensure students are pursuing schools that best meet their needs and interests.
  • Leadership: Inspires students to think critically about issues that affect them and their communities, empowering them to find their voices and encouraging them to take on leadership roles in their communities that make a difference.
  • Social justice: Responds to our students’ lived experiences by allowing them to participate in writing classes, seminars, and counseling groups to discuss current events relating to social justice and write/workshop essays on topics of discussion.
  • STEM: Engages students in project-based courses that expand content knowledge and build enthusiasm for STEM concepts while remediating skill deficits.


1Nagaoka, J., Farrington, C.A., Ehrlich, S.B., and Heath, R.D. (2015). Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

2Millett, C.M. and Nettles, M.T. (2009). Developing High-Potential Youth Program: A Return On Investment Study for U.S. Programs. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

3Bernard, M.E. (1995). Improving student motivation and school achievement: A professional development program for teachers, special educators, school administrators and pupil service personnel. Ontario, Canada: Hindle & Associates.