A Brooklyn School’s Curriculum Includes Ambition

Winnie Hu:

As Kareem left school on an overcast afternoon, he looked up and down the street before heading home to the Van Dyke I Houses. Last spring, he recalled, he was jumped a block away by a couple of boys from another project. They threw him to the ground and stomped on him, though he did nothing to provoke them, he said.

“I want to leave Brownsville because a lot of violence goes on,” said Kareem, 12, soft-spoken in a navy sweatshirt and gray cargo pants, a backpack over his shoulder. “I feel that I could have a better life.”

For Kareem, Mott Hall Bridges Academy is more than just a place to learn algebra and history. A public middle school, it is seen by many families as a safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood, and a gateway out of generational poverty for those born with few advantages in life. Nearly all 191 students in grades six through eight are black or Hispanic; more than 85 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.