Harlem Prep Connection

From its inception in 1967, the Harlem Preparatory School attracted the attention of educators in New York City and elsewhere for its innovative educational system. Based on progressive education principles, Harlem Prep embraced the concepts of individual responsibility, individual dignity, and support for community.

These values resonate with Bahá'í religious principles promoted and practiced by Hussein Ahdieh (assistant headmaster) and other education visionaries who made up the faculty and administration of the school. He became a part of Harlem Prep after having witnessed the denial of education of young people in Iran. He felt a soulful connection to the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

The alternative school movement (free schools) in the early seventies sparked the intellect and the imagination. Harlem Prep enrolled disadvantaged youth 17 to 21 years old who generally were either high school dropouts or were in the category of those who could not expect to get accepted into a standard American college. Both groups suffered from poor academic skills, poor goal setting, and a background history of inadequate educational preparation for school and for life.

As a private, non-sectarian school, Harlem Prep was allowed independence in its operation, curriculum, and hiring. The curriculum was needs based. Classes were chosen with an advisor. Classes met at flexible times. The open classroom arrangement in an old supermarket space in Harlem, New York allowed cross observation. Class topics cut across the disciplines. Study materials were supplemented by visits to actual work sites. Tutoring and mentoring were built in. Personal expression was encouraged Mutual respect between teachers and students allowed roles to be interchanged. An individual graduated only when he or she had college acceptance in his/her hands.

Early on, the Urban League and Manhattanville College helped to launch the school. There was no tuition. Funding came chiefly from institutions such as Standard Oil of New Jersey, the Sheila Mosler Fund, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Hayden Foundation, the Arwood Foundation, the Roethbert Foundation, the New York Foundation, Coca-Cola, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, Union Carbide, Herman Miller Furniture, and the Ford Foundation – to name just a few.

Prominent individuals from many fields, such as Edward F. Carpenter (Headmaster); Whitney M. Young (National Urban League); Mother Ruth Dowd (Manhattanville College); Dr. Eugene S. Callender; Honourable Robert J. Mangum; Dr. Kenneth B. Clark; Stephen J. Wright; Dr. John Cave; Dizzy Gillespie; Bill Cosby; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Ozzy Davis, Billy Taylor, William F. Buckley, Jr.; Senator Jacob K. Javits; Minister Louis Farrakhan; Percy Sutton; Ann Carpenter; E. Solomon McFarlane; and others, lent their support in so many ways. Harlem Prep continues today as part of the NYC Board of Education. "Moja Logo," Unity and Brotherhood, is the motto that sums it all up. In the ten years of its independent existence, this spirit of unity and support provided the educational opportunity for more than 500 students to find their way into 189 colleges. The school was been covered in major newspapers, and written about by Jonathan Kozol, Dwight W. Allen, and other education authors in journals and books, and visited by educators from Israel, China, Norway, and many other countries. It still serves as an iconic example of one way to bring about a bright future for individuals who need that extra chance.

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