More Than a Movement

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Class of 2019 LEAP Academy University School graduate Brielle Nieves

This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!

As I approach the final few weeks of my time as a Leadership, Education, And Partnership Academy University School (LEAP) student, I have begun to reflect on the moments that have made my journey at LEAP so special.

Being a student at LEAP Academy in Camden, N.J., is about more than simply excelling as a student leader. As a graduating senior at LEAP, we are called to a higher and more meaningful purpose than to just simply attend school each day. My senior year at LEAP has pushed me to better understand my place in the world, and how important it is for me to share the unique story of my journey.

I am a lifelong LEAP Scholar, and I have spent my entire life progressing through the LEAP “Cradle to College Pipeline”. Making it to my senior year was especially meaningful because I have followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers, Elvin, who graduated from LEAP in 2005, and Brian, who graduated from LEAP in 2010. They both paved the way for me to create my own unique path through the LEAP “Cradle to College Pipeline,” and I have taken on this opportunity in hopes that I can pave the way for future generations of LEAP students.

LEAP provides each of its graduating seniors with the opportunity to take college-level coursework through the LEAP Early College Program and I have soaked up this experience like a sponge. I had always envisioned myself taking college coursework as a college freshman, never realizing that my LEAP community had spearheaded a movement to leverage dual-enrollment opportunities. When I first stepped into my English composition I course at Rutgers University-Camden during the fall 2018 semester, I felt the tremendous weight of the lofty expectations hanging over me. However, I also felt empowered and emboldened to confidently introduced myself as a LEAP Academy high school student to my new classmates.

Needless to say, they were shocked to find that a high school senior had been selected to take such a challenging course with college freshman and sophomores. As I searched for words to explain the long chain of events that led me to that college classroom, I kept hearing the words that were repeated to me by my teachers and guidance counselor, “it’s a movement.”

When I think about all of the moving parts that go into building partnerships with universities, it helps to view things in the context of a movement. Although it was only my voice explaining the story of LEAP Academy to my classmates and college professor, my confidence in that moment came from understanding the LEAP movement is much larger than just my own personal success. LEAP and its founder Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago have championed change in my Camden community, breaking through barriers that many thought were impossible. My future success is a testament to the dedication of those who laid the foundation for the LEAP Pipeline.

In the fall 2019 semester, I will attend Rutgers University-Camden and I will have the added luxury of having completed nearly two dozen college credits through the LEAP Early College Program. My legacy as a LEAP alum has been built by my willingness to take on the tremendous learning opportunities that are leveraged by the LEAP movement. I will use the power of my personal journey to inspire other students to achieve success.

LEAP Academy is truly more than just a movement. LEAP Academy is a miracle!


Brielle Nieves is a 2019 graduate of Leadership, Education, And Partnership Academy University School (LEAP). In the fall she will begin classes at Rutgers University.


[Click to Tweet] Class of 2019 @LEAPacademy graduate Brielle Nieves reflects on her time at her charter school and how it helped to prepare her for college at @RutgersU #CharterGrads

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