In the 1970′s and ’80′s the South Bronx was one of the most troubled neighborhoods in the nation. Gang and drug activity was rampant, and the schools — both public and private — had great difficulty helping families to nurture, protect and guide their students. Inspired by the social teachings of the Catholic church, a few individuals came together to offer badly needed help to families in the South Bronx — helping their children to stay in school, to avoid falling prey to destructive neighborhood influences, and ultimately to excel in their education by identifying and achieving worthy personal goals.
In the late 1970′s with the help of concerned educators, business people, and ordinary citizens, the Rosedale Center for girls was established in a small townhouse south of the Parkchester neighborhood. It offered the local community supplemental educational programs after school, and all-day summer activities, including academics, art and athletics. Today, as it did then, the program content of all activities continues to emphasize character formation through the development of virtues including integrity, fortitude, and temperance.
By the late 1980′s the Crotona Center, with the same program content for boys, was established in the Fort Apache area of the Bronx. Motivated by the dedication of its families, volunteers, and supporters, the South Bronx Educational Foundation was formed in 1988 to provide administrative support to both program centers. Our motto, “Together We Can,” reflects the collaboration of staff, parents, volunteers and benefactors to deliver character-building programs based on the fundamental principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
More than 300 students in grades 4-12 are involved in SBEF programs each year. Students are offered a variety of activities including academic tutoring, standardized test prep, character talks, music and art classes, sports, public speaking and leadership activities. While the programs draw upon the spirit of the Catholic organization Opus Dei, there are no religious-affiliation requirements, and many of the students are not Catholic or even Christian. The after-school and mentoring programs connect college students and young working professionals with SBEF students to help them with studies and to prepare college applications. During the summer, volunteers from Columbia, Notre Dame, Harvard, Fordham, Princeton, UCLA and other universities dedicate 5-6 weeks as counselors for the SBEF students…and it’s working!
Since 1988, SBEF students have had a 100% high school graduation rate, and approximately 90% college matriculation rate — nearly three times that of their peer group. Students from Crotona and Rosedale have recently attended such universities as Columbia, Notre Dame, Boston College, Brown, Syracuse and Fordham. Our students reside in a community where drug dealing and gang activity still occur right outside their front doors — indeed, some of our alumni and students have lost friends and relatives to such activities. Nonetheless, our programs attract motivated students from supportive families, dedicated volunteers and impressive staff.
SBEF relies on contributions of time, talent and treasure from individuals, corporations and foundations to provide facilities and programs. We have no sustaining endowment and must rely on annual contributions. While we have been blessed with continuing support from a core group of benefactors, we are constantly seeking new donors to help us expand the reach and improve the effectiveness of our programs. We remain dedicated to reaching even more students and families each year and humbly seek the support of those who can enable us to do so.