We all love an inspiring story of triumph over adversity, and that’s exactly what you’ll find when you watch the documentary, The Infamous Future, now available to stream on HBO Max. The award-winning 2018 film, available to stream online for the first time, tells the story of Eagle Academy, an all-boys education initiative in some of the most challenging neighborhoods in New York City and New Jersey.
Lifting Up Young Men of Color
Eagle Academy started in 2004 as just one public school initiative to bring a new teaching methodology to an all-boys middle and high school setting in New York City. The Eagle Model focuses on teaching not just the most enthusiastic students in a school system, but those that are often left behind and written off — namely young men of color.
“Statistics paint a bleak future for inner city young men,” notes Eagle Academy. “The systemic failure of the public education system, extreme poverty and the school dropout to prison pipeline are robbing our nation’s young men of their true promise. Without a defined pathway to academic and economic well-being, inner city young men are struggling to achieve.”
Eagle Academy students are selected by a lottery system, not through testing or a selective review committee typical of a private school system. Eagle Academy has continued to grow and to spread their impact where it is most needed, and currently operates six schools, one in each New York City borough and also in the city of Newark, New Jersey.
“Our young men are up against it on every front, and it shouldn’t have to be that way,” said Eagle Academy President and CEO, David C. Banks, “So my organization decided we were going to do something about that.”
Inspiring a Generation
Eagle currently teaches more than 3,000 young men of color, and have graduated more than 900 high school seniors, 98% of which were accepted to college. For most of these young men, this trajectory would have been unimaginable before Eagle Academy. The Eagle Academies have an 87% graduation rate. By comparison, at the national level, Black male high school students only have a 58% graduation rate, and in New York City where most Eagle Academy scholars live, that graduation rate is only 25%. The graduates of Eagle Academies are role models not only to their younger Eagle students following in their footsteps, but to members of their families, neighbors and those they could meet in the future.
“A lot of people, you know, believe that you’re from the South Bronx, you’re not going to make it, you’re not going to go to college, you’re not going to be what you want to be,” says Eagle Academy For Young Men of the Bronx student Joshua Perez says in the film. Perez’ own mother gets teary-eyed watching her son finish up his Eagle education and prepare for a college experience away from home. She notes that she herself didn’t graduate high school.
Support from Robert F. Smith for Eagle Academy
The Fund II Foundation, of which Robert F. Smith is the founding director and President, is a major supporter of Eagle Academy, and has continued to award grants to the organization. Eagle Academy is not only inspirational on its own, but it also is meeting the needs of students of color in ways that Robert F. Smith frequently advocates for on the local and national level.
Smith has many philanthropic projects in education, from the recently launched Student Freedom Initiative, which helps HBCU STEM majors avoid crippling student loan debt, to his donations to his alma maters Cornell, and Columbia, as well as his famous multi-million dollar pledge to cover the student loan debt of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019.
You can check out the trailer for The Infamous Future, and watch the film online on HBO Max this January.