Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City launched the Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) in 2011 to find new ways to improve opportunities and outcomes for Black and Latino young men. YMI is a comprehensive approach that involves the city’s education, health, employment training, and justice sectors. A key education component of YMI is the  Expanded Success Initiative (ESI),  an ongoing collaboration between the NYCDOE and the Open Society Foundation, which is focused on increasing the preparedness of Black and Latino high school graduates for college and careers. ESI is a research and development program designed to invest deeply in a targeted group of schools to test and refine best practices and then disseminate them system-wide. To date ESI has scaled up college advisement training across city high schools to increase post-secondary access and supported innovations in 40 existing district schools to strengthen and improve their academic, youth development and school culture practices. The final step in ESI’s strategic plan is identifying the programs and practices that dramatically increase college and career readiness, and integrating them into a comprehensive school model that closes the opportunity gap and redefines college and career readiness. That model will be put into practice on two campuses that will be known collectively as EPIC Schools, as well as at the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice. The partnership with ESI will provide these schools with access to a wealth of resources, including a School Design Fellowship during the planning year and, once the schools are operational, professional development, data systems, expertise and curriculum resources.
As part of the broader Young Men’s Initiative – aimed at addressing the opportunity gap for some of our most vulnerable young people – the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) set out to tackle an a seemingly intractable challenge: approximately 1 in 10 Black and Latino students graduate from high school ready to meet the demands of college and the 21st century labor force. As part of ESI, the DOE set out to redesign and launch a set of new, innovative high schools with the goal of adequately preparing all students for college and careers – to move from 1 in 10 to 10 in 10. The ESI School Design Fellowship is a cross-functional team of professionals with experience from a range of fields. The team was intentionally constructed with the belief that the challenge of increasing college and career readiness for Black and Latino youth required a wide range of strategies and solutions from a diverse array of fields and disciplines. Some of the Fellows have worked directly in New York City as teachers and assistant principals in school models as diverse as transfer schools and International schools. Others have led turnaround efforts in other districts, developed institutional partnerships with industry, and spearheaded teacher training initiatives on uses of technology in the classroom. All Fellows are deeply committed to educating young people – including students with disabilities and English Language Learners – and are motivated by the idea that the Fellowship is the starting point for both high school redesign and broader systemic reform.For the past six months, the ESI Fellows have been involved in a design process that borrows heavily from design thinking and lean start-up methodologies with the goals of 1) establishing a culture of innovation that leads to the long-term success of the schools and 2) sharpening the focus on the needs of students and communities where the schools are located. This “user-centered” approach is embodied most fervently in the on-going participation of approximately 20 students from the existing ESI schools as part of the Student Fellowship. ESI Fellows meet with students each week to challenge all assumptions about the current design of school and remain rooted in the perspective of experience. This continual questioning and collaboration with young people seeks to understand student motivation, honor their voice, and anticipate the challenges of implementing a redesigned high school model as it relates to instruction and student support. Ultimately, these schools will graduate young people with the range of skills – both academic and inter-personal – required by college and the new economy. Our highly personalized environment where each student is recognized a unique learner will support students on a path of their own choosing. Our commitment to honoring the cultural heritage of both our students and surrounding community ensures that these schools will be places where students and their families have authentic voice in shaping the priorities of the community. Our model will demonstrate what is possible in reaching the elusive 10 in 10.

RELEVANT LINKS:        Office of Post-Secondary Readiness       |       ESI       |       Open Society Foundation       |       Young Men’s Initiative



Tabari Zaid Bomani has worked as a social studies teacher, college advisor, and Dean at Bushwick Community High School, a transfer high school in Brooklyn.  Additionally, he was an adjunct professor in the African Studies department at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.  Tabari has also lectured and performed poetry for community-based organizations, colleges, and universities.  He earned a BA in History and Secondary Education from Hofstra University and a MA in History from Brooklyn College.  He was also a member of the Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model, a leadership program jointly developed by New Visions for Public Schools and the School for Public Affairs at Baruch College.  Tabari is a member of the MALIK fraternity and the Phi Alpha Theta National Historian Honor Society.  He is also the father of two extraordinary young ladies, Anisa and Anaya, and is married to Lydia Colon Bomani.


Harvey Chism Jr. has focused his professional career on addressing the needs of under-served youth and communities.  As Vice President of Educational Innovations at the Philadelphia Youth Network, Harvey oversaw the development of educational programs designed to assist struggling students, former out-of-school youth, and others in need of support to realize their educational and career-related goals.  He supported the School District of Philadelphia in creating and expanding its multiple pathways system, a diversified portfolio of educational program options.  During his tenure at the Philadelphia Youth Network, Harvey regularly convened strategic planning and governance bodies; presented to diverse levels of audiences, and served as facilitator and policy adviser to local and national groups. Most recently, Harvey has worked on building the capacity of community-based organizations to provide core academic credit bearing learning experiences to students via a digital badges pilot. He has also served as project lead for the creation of a new school model that integrates competency-based, blended-learning strategies with work-based learning and embedded college transition.  Additionally, as a former 8th and 11th grade social studies teacher at Delaware Valley Friends School, Harvey also has practical experience at the school level working with students, their families, fellow faculty, school administrators and staff.  Harvey holds Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and Education from Swarthmore College, a Masters in Education with a concentration in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Education at Temple University.


John Clemente graduated from New York University with a degree in anthropology. He subsequently joined the AmeriCorps VISTA Program working with foster teens and adjudicated youth in Paterson, New Jersey. He was an inaugural member of the New York City Teaching Fellows, teaching middle school in the south Bronx for four years. He received his Masters in Education from Lehman College and his Masters in Media Studies from New School University. Most recently, John was the Director of Educational Services at Teaching Matters, a non-profit whose mission is to develop and retain great teachers and measurably increase their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education. John led their team of over 35 instructional coaches for six years. Prior to that he served as an instructional coach and wrote culturally relevant curriculum for several of their large scale programs.


Brandon Corley is a mathematics teacher at the James Baldwin School: A School for Expeditionary Learning, a transfer high school in New York City.  He is a graduate of Chicago State University with a BS in Mathematics/Secondary Education and is an established leader, teacher, and child advocate.  He was born and raised in Chicago and represents the Englewood community of Chicago’s Southside with great pride.  Brandon has worked with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program since 2004 in various capacities.  His role as co-founder and Project Director of the “World Famous” Bethel-Imani CDF Freedom Schools site in Chicago and the Imani-Harambee CDF Freedom Schools site in Milwaukee, his time as an Ella Baker Trainer, and his work planning regular youth mobilizations, conferences and events has earned him recognition amongst his peers. Mr. Corley’s widespread community involvement and volunteer work includes: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America where he has served as the multicultural representative for the Lutheran Youth Organization; Nation Builder with the Simba Circle Camp; basketball coach for the Southside YMCA in Chicago; National Membership Chairman of Phi Rho Eta Fraternity, Inc. Currently, he is an advisory board member for Mature Cradle, Inc. Through this work he has directly served communities in Champaign and Chicago, Il, as well as Milwaukee, Wi, Mt Vernon, NY, New Orleans, La, and Philadelphia, Pa.

John Duval

John Duval (Network Architect) was formerly the Deputy Executive Director in the Office of Postsecondary Readiness at NYCDOE.  In that capacity, he oversaw research and development, managing the office’s annual operating budget of approximately $60M in local, federal, and private funds, including the Expanded Success Initiative. Additionally, he managed all longitudinal research to assess the return on investment for the Multiple Pathways and CTE portfolios and led policy development in the areas of finance and accountability.  He came to education after working as a job coach for adults recovering from mental illness in the Bronx and central Brooklyn.  John holds a BA from the University of Virginia and a MPA from Columbia University.


Natalie Ferrell has a background in bilingual education, research and youth development. She began her career teaching Science at a middle school for recently arrived immigrants in Upper Manhattan. As an educator, she became acutely aware of the effects of relationships and learning conditions on student success and returned to graduate school to study adolescent health, programming and policy, publishing research on the effects of school choice on student well-being in post-Katrina New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Natalie also coached new teachers as an Intervention Specialist for teachNOLA. Most recently, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, where she worked primarily on collaborative action research, gender initiatives and capacity building with a youth development nonprofit. Natalie holds a BA in Latin American Studies and a Masters in Public Heath from Tulane University, as well as a Masters in Teaching with a focus on ESL and bilingual education.


Darius Mensah comes to the ESI School Design Fellowship with an unshakable belief that all children come to us with unlimited potential, and that we, as educators, have the responsibility of creating the spaces where they can thrive academically. He came into the teaching profession via the NYC Teaching Fellows, and served as a special education teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy VII High School in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He then joined New Leaders for New Schools in Oakland, CA, earned a school leadership credential, and served as an Assistant Principal before returning to NYC to lead the work of improving college and career readiness for students at FDA VII. Darius earned a BA In Psychology from Montclair State University, a MSEd from CUNY Brooklyn College, and completed graduate work for his administrative credential at California State University East Bay.


Paul Perry joined the ESI School Design Fellowship after working on the School Leadership Team at TechBoston Academy, a 6-12 pilot school with a focus on technology and college and career readiness. Prior to this, he worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District in their Talent Management Division developing professional development programs for teachers and school leaders. While in California, Paul also led a project to reform the policies and procedures of the San Francisco Department of Juvenile Justice and taught courses at San Quentin State Prison through the Prison University Project. Paul started his career in the School District of Philadelphia as a middle school English and Social Studies teacher. He is completing his final year in the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D) Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He holds degrees from American University, University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Berkeley.


Vadewatie Ramsuchit has passionately served as an educator in NYC Public Schools for over a decade.  She served as a founding teacher and later as an assistant principal at The International High School at Prospect Heights.  She has mentored teachers, developed peer support systems and sought alternative solutions to help students achieve their goals and strengthen educational communities.  Vadewatie holds a Bachelors degree in Information Systems Management, a Masters degree in Education and an advanced certificate in Educational Leadership.


David Weinberg has been working as an urban educator for 10 years. He got involved in this work because he believes deeply that education is the greatest tool to impact social change and to help to level the playing field for all people. David’s career started as a High School History and Government teacher at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he taught everything from Sheltered English classes to Advanced Placement courses. After graduating from Harvard’s School Leadership program he oversaw the “redesign” of Chelsea High School; a 3 million dollar turnaround grant from the state to rethink what an urban high school could look like. That work focused heavily on building teacher capacity to support English Language Learners and Special Education students.  David then assumed the title of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and School Redesign; a role in which he spent time coaching principals, designing professional development and working to create leadership pathways.