A Better Chance (ABC) places top middle and high school students of color in highly ranked independent day schools, boarding schools and public schools. Students with at least a B+ average who are ranked in the top 10% of their class are eligible. Candidates must apply one year in advance.
Breakthrough New York at the Town School is a tuition-free, year-round enrichment program for highly motivated middle-school students with limited educational opportunities. There is a two-year commitment, including a rigorous academic summer program and enrichment classes, museum trips, mentoring and high school placement guidance throughout the school year.
The Center for Leadership and College Preparation, affiliated with Bank Street College of Education, offers educational opportunities both to high-achieving students and to struggling students. The program serves kids in 5th to 12th grades, giving them access to a wide range of academic resources, college prep classes, counseling, mentoring and activities, as well as individual attention and support. Students are admitted in the 5th, 7th and 9th grades.
The Double Discovery Center at Columbia University houses educational programs serving low-income and first-generation college-bound students. Talent Search is a career and college counseling program for students in 7th-12th grade.
Harlem Education Activities Fund (HEAF) offers intensive academic enrichment courses, test preparation, and social and personal development activities for students after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. The goal is to assist college-bound students from educationally and/or economically disadvantaged communities in developing intellectual and life skills. Programs are specific to middle and high school students.
The Oliver Scholars Program selects highly motivated African American and Latino 7th-graders and offers them support and guidance to gain admission to some of the Northeast’s best independent schools. Support continues through the college admissions process.
Prep for Prep, a nonprofit group, helps high-achieving minority students attend top colleges, including Ivy League schools. There are programs for 5th-, 6th- and 7th-grade black, Latino and Asian students. The program includes a seven-week summer session and weekly Wednesday and Saturday classes.
Summer on the Hill at Horace Mann is an enrichment program for academically talented public school students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Students start in the 2nd grade and continue until placed in high school, participating in Saturday-morning classes during the school year and a six-week summer session. They study language arts, math and science, and learn study skills. Summer programs include fine arts, recreation and an overnight trip to the John Dorr Nature Laboratory in Connecticut. Summer on the Hill continues to offer support through 12th grade.
Teak Fellows supports students seeking to gain admissions to top high schools and colleges. Students who are citizens or permanent residents, have proof of financial need and have scored above 90 percent on tests and in class may apply by October of their 7th-grade year. The program runs from the summer after 7th grade until college placement. Only 25 students are accepted each year.
United Neighborhood Houses has a complete list of neighborhood houses and community centers in New York City, many of which offer college counseling.
Project Art is an after-school, weekend and summer visual arts education program that invites art students to explore art in a bold and unique way. The program unites young artists with practicing professional and resident artists from around the world. At the end of the summer term and the school year, project-based student works are displayed in New York City and around the world.
Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and its regional affiliates reach out to schools across the nation to identify accomplished artists and writers in grades 7-12. About 1,000 students earn national awards, including more than $1.5 million in scholarships. Student work is exhibited, published and presented to a national audience.
CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT) Youth Theatre creates original productions from the ideas of its members. They aim to amplify the collective voice of the group while creating social and culturally relevant theater of the highest possible standard.
Free Arts NYC uses painting, dance, drama, writing, music, sculpture, photography and other creative outlets to help children express themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem through Free Arts Days, Weekly Mentor Program, Parents and Children Together with Art (PACT) and Cultural Enrichment Opportunities.
High 5 is dedicated to making the arts affordable for teens by offering $5 tickets to hundreds of dance, music, theater, film, museum and spoken-word events. Its Teen Reviewers and Critics Program (TRaC) includes weekly seminars and attendance at performances where kids learn how to evaluate and write about what they see. Limited middle school participation - students must be 13.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a program of free classes held after school and on weekends for families and kids from 18 months to 12.
YCkidsARTS, sponsored by the Alliance for the Arts, lists arts and cultural activities available to kids and families, including many neighborhood institutions, after-school activities and more.
The Summer Arts Institute is a tuition-free, intensive, four-week arts program for New York City public school students entering 8th to 12th grades, held at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. Students major in dance, theater, vocal music, instrumental music, visual art, film or photography. Admission is by application and audition.
Wingspan Arts offers a tuition-free Summer Theater Conservatory for incoming 7th- to 12th-graders. Current 6th- to 11th-graders should log on to the website for information and application. Auditions are held in January and February. High school students put on a play and a musical; middle schoolers write and produce an original work.
Math and science
ExploraVision encourages kids to create and explore a vision of future technology. Students work in small groups, along with a team coach and an optional mentor, simulating research and development teams. Students compete in regional competitions, and the top 24 teams go to a national competition. Prizes include up to $10,000 in savings bonds.
New York Hall of Science in Queens offers free admission September through June on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 to 11 a.m.
Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and its regional affiliates reach out to schools across the nation to identify accomplished artists and writers in grades 7 to 12. About 1,000 students earn national awards, including more than $1.5 million dollars in scholarships. Student work is exhibited, published and presented to a national audience.
Creative Communication sponsors essay- and poetry-writing contests for students in grades 4-12. Students compete against their peers in both age and location, and winners share more than $70,000 in prizes. Selected entries are published in a hard-bound anthology.
History, politics and journalism
Children’s PressLine produces journalistic stories created by students ages 8 to 18. Students act as reporters and editors and learn to conduct research and interviews and edit.
HarlemLive is an award-winning, critically acclaimed web magazine produced by teens from throughout New York City. It is a journalism, technology and leadership program that teaches students ages 13-21 how to run an online newspaper. The publication includes news articles, investigative stories, opinion pieces, personal essays, poetry, photography and video documentaries. The students organize events, conduct workshops and sit on panels, improving their networking and public-speaking skills.
The North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO) is modeled after similar Linguistics Olympiads held in Eastern Europe. In these events middle and high school students learn to solve linguistic problems from dozens of the world’s languages. In the process, they learn about the richness and diversity of language and exercise natural logic and reasoning abilities. No prior knowledge of particular languages or linguistics is necessary.
Schomburg Center’s Junior Scholars Program for ages 11-17 offers a Saturday school geared toward students of African descent. Its primary goal is to ground young people in the histories and cultures of the African Diaspora. The program is an intensive, 26-week series of Saturday sessions, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Junior Scholars have access to resources at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. For applications or more information, contact Deirdre Hollman at 212-491-2234.
Teens Take the City is a program of the YMCA of Greater New York through which 500 teens from all backgrounds get involved in local government, civics and politics. The program is partly supported by the New York City Council, and each council member can nominate five students to participate.
The Collectors Club of New York sponsors a free Youth Stamp Club with monthly meetings for kids in grades 4 and up. The program welcomes experienced stamp collectors and introduces beginners to a hobby that also teaches about history, geography, famous people and events. Sessions are held beginning in September on Saturdays from 10-11/30 a.m.
The Boys’ Club of New York welcomes 6- to 20-year-old boys and charges less than a dollar a year to participate in computer classes, attend summer camp, get homework help and receive dental services. The club has a location in Flushing (Queens) and two in Manhattan.
HomeworkNYC.org is a website run by the public libraries. The site is designed specifically to help students in grades K-12th in every area of the New York City schools curriculum and offers live, online assistance. Students and parents can also search for information on a variety of topics. The library site is also affiliated with the teacher’s union Dial-A-Teacher, a helpline that allows students and parents to talk directly with a city teacher Monday through Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m./ 212-777-3380.
The Liberty Leaders program at Bank Street College provides support to 5th- to 12th-graders six days a week for 11 months. Students have access to a wide range of academic resources, college prep classes, counseling and enrichment activities.
Also see our page about after-school programs.
The Garden Apprentice Program at Brooklyn Botanic Garden provides students in grades 8 to 12 with training and volunteer placements focused on gardening, environmental issues, science, leadership and career skills. Apprentices become an important part of the garden’s education department.
The New York Botanical Garden’s Explainer Program accepts middle and high school students between the ages of 13 and 17 who enjoy the outdoors and want to learn about plants, nature and science. The program offers the opportunity to learn about plants, develop new skills and receive personal mentoring. Explainers also help younger children who visit the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.
At MillionTreesNYC students and families can participate in citywide volunteer tree-planting and tree-care workshops. The program is a public-private initiative launched by the City of New York Parks Department and New York Restoration Project with the goal of planting a million new trees across all five boroughs over the next decade.