Mission, Vision, and Values


Borne out of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, newly designed Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) schools challenge all students to dream big and design their futures. The schools share a common design that recognizes each student as an individual and provides a series of learning experiences that equip them to walk their unique paths. They honor and integrate the cultures of their communities to make learning relevant, responsive, and accessible. ESI schools help young people to develop a positive sense of self, ready to stand for social justice. The Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice, as a partner school, incorporates these ESI school design elements.

The mission of the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice is to create lifelong, socially conscious leaders who use education as a powerful tool to change the world. NMSJJ promotes empowerment, personalized and applied learning, inclusion and service, cultural relevance/responsiveness, continuous growth and design for transformation, and collective responsibility. We explore social justice themes through a challenging and engaging academic curriculum. Students develop critical thinking, analytic, and problem solving skills. Service learning, collaborative projects, travel abroad, and internships prepare NMSSJ students for the demands of college and careers and help them to define their purpose and responsibility as global citizens. All of the above are achieved in the spirit of Ubuntu and Harambee.


All graduates of The Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice will be college and career ready as we provide a meaningful pathway to lifelong learning for every student. By fostering the boldness to dream and by developing a commitment to inner growth and outward transformation, our graduates will be ready to design their own futures.


Empowerment: Our learning community fosters young people to be positive decision makers. Our students develop into leaders by making real choices pertaining to their educational paths. We listen to the voices of our young people when assisting them on their journey towards future success in college and careers. We empower them to design the world they want to live in.

Personalized and Applied Learning:  Our learning community recognizes and attends to the differences that exist across all of our students and staff members. In fact, we integrate them into everything that we do. All students and staff maintain personal growth plans that highlight their strengths, challenges, and methods of learning and guide their work on a daily basis. We also have a commitment to connecting all learning to practical experiences that deepen and enrich mastery.

Inclusion and Service:  Our learning community will honor and embrace the cultures of our students. We will teach in a way that is responsive to their needs. Everything we do is primarily in service to our students. Our learning community will serve as an integral part of the neighborhood and city in which we exist. Community members, parents, students and all others who have a stake in our work will have a real say in how we operate. We also will develop young people to be leaders through service to the community. We embrace democratic processes to ensure collective buy-in for our work together.

Cultural Relevance and Responsiveness: Our learning community recognizes that the cultures of students of color have not always been honored and integrated into typical curricular and pedagogical practice in most schools. Often, they have been miseducated and unfairly targeted by zero tolerance discipline policies that deprive of their right to a liberating education. We will purposefully infuse every piece of our work with norms, practices and ideas that engage and connect our students to their heritage and expand access points to learning.

Continuous Growth & Design for Transformation: Our learning community will help all learners focus inward and outward when it comes to transformation. We cannot transform society until we transform ourselves. We are all a part of the systems that shape and define our experiences. We espouse a growth mindset and an asset-based approach when it comes to personal development. We encourage our students to take risks, learn from failure (“fail forward”), and design a better future using the tools they develop in our learning community.

Collective Responsibility:  Our learning community operates on the moral principle of Ubuntu — “I am because we are.” We each exist as unique and powerful learners, but we also work together to transform ourselves and our community.