NEW YORK: School leaders, teachers, and students from schools in the Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles metro areas have been named as finalists for the 2015 Robert F. Kennedy Urban Education Awards, announced by Schools That Can (STC) in partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (formerly the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, or RFK Center).

The 2015 awards will honor a school leader, teacher, and student who demonstrate grit and courage in the face of adversity. Finalists were nominated by peers and chosen as exemplars of the following quote from RFK’s speech, Day of Affirmation, given to the University of Cape Town, South Africa on June 6th, 1966:

“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” – RFK, June 6th, 1966

2015 Awardees will be announced May 18th at Loyola Marymount University School of Education, as part of Schools That Can’s 10th Annual National Forum. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will present the awards.

“We want to shift the education dialogue to one which celebrates our fellow Americans defying the status quo,” said Michael Druckman, Executive Chair of Schools That Can. “We must learn from them as models of success.”

School Leaders

Ralph Bland, New Paradigm for Education, Detroit, MI

Franklin Headley, VOICE Charter School, Long Island City, NY

Carolyn R. Wilder, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, Inglewood, CA

Angel Chavarin, Laurel Street Elementary School, Compton, CA

Mary Clemmons, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, Los Angeles, CA

Jenny Kager, Robert Louis Stevenson School, New York, NY

Nora Banuelos, Da Vinci Science, Hawthorne, CA

Osiris Bell, Laurel Street Elementary School, Compton, CA

Kaylen Chase, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, Los Angeles, CA

Yanely Santiago, Da Vinci Science, Hawthorne, CA

Ralph Bland
Co-Founder and CEO, New Paradigm for Education, Detroit, Michigan

Nomination Excerpt:

“Mr. Bland understands he has not taken on this charge alone. The school is designed with a culture of success, academic achievement and continuous progress in mind and in action. Guiding his team of 100 teachers in this flagship school, they all foster a transformative education plan that never accepts the status quo. Together, they create a bridge to learning for the students that expands upon current knowledge and encourages personal and academic discovery.”

Franklin Headley
Principal, VOICE Charter School of New York, Long Island City, New York

Nomination Excerpt:

“As VOICE student Jefferson Guaman writes, ‘Mr. Headley is the definition of a courageous pioneer, someone starts from scratch yet does marvels.’ Frank was not only the first in his blue collar family to attend college, but after graduating from Harvard, he continued to earn degrees in history, architecture, and educational leadership on hard-earned full scholarships. While teaching at Columbia University, Frank volunteered to teach GED students in Morningside Heights, and his interest and care turned to teaching at-risk children and empowering them to transcend the challenges of economic inequality, race, and immigration. Frank founded VOICE Charter School on the premise that all students are capable of achieving at high levels in all subjects, with a school-wide vocal music program as audible proof of concept. No elementary school admits high-needs children without audition and teaches them music daily with such rigor and richness.”

Carolyn R. Wilder
Co-Founder, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, Inglewood, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“Wilder’s Preparatory Academy became Inglewood Preparatory Charter School, the first charter school to be approved by the City of Inglewood and the first to be authorized by the Inglewood Unified School District. In addition to her many accomplishments, Dr. Wilder is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. the California Association for Early Childhood Education, the Black Women’s Forum, the YMCA, the Black Child Development Institute, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Ebony Guild, and the New Philadelphia AME Church.”


Angel Chavarin
4th Grade Teacher, 
Laurel Street Elementary School, 
Compton, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“Mr. Chavarin’s planning, preparation, and commitment to diversity in the classroom is evident in his students’ performance on assessments. He is committed to the school’s goal of developing excellent writers; he is one of the major contributors to the development of the Laurel Writing Approach, a writing program that scaffolds the teaching of organizational and creative writing. This has led to students becoming stellar writers at Laurel Street Elementary and earned the school the coveted Golden Bell Award for bridging the gap in student achievement in 2010.”

Mary Clemmons
3rd Grade Teacher, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, Inglewood, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“Ms. Clemmons has been instrumental in boosting the self-esteem and confidence of students who are experiencing trials and tribulations outside of school, which has proven an increase in academic achievement in the learning environment. Her dedication and commitment has shown to be an asset. Throughout her career she has fostered a personal relationship with her students and their families and has been a part of their educational journey throughout their college years.”

Jenny Kager
Teacher and Learning Specialist, Robert Louis Stevenson School, 
New York, NY

Nomination Excerpt:

“Over the course of the last thirteen years Jenny has dedicated herself to reaching Stevenson students in new and innovative ways. From creating Shakespeare productions with students who hadn’t experienced academic success in years, to developing a yearly publication called “A Foot in the Door” which showcases the creative writing and artistic talents of the entire community, to integrating technology into the classroom in new and dynamic ways and then sharing her excitement with the faculty, Jenny never stops pushing herself to meet the needs of Stevenson students.”



Nora Banuelos
12th Grade Student
, Da Vinci Science High School, 
Hawthrone, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“Next year Nora will be attending Cal State Dominguez Hills to double major in Biology and Dance, a perfect blend of her love for science and her talent in the arts. She is so positive that her energy is contagious and brings up any room she walks into. She is a founding member of GSA as well as co-president. She is passionate about supporting the LGBTQ population as well as all populations.”

Osiris Bell
Fifth Grade Student, Laurel Street Elementary School, 
Compton, California

Nomination Excerpt:

“Osiris is a student whose moral courage fosters transformation in others because he is a role model for his peers. He is a high achieving student who embraces learning and shows the courage to be his own unique self each day. He puts his very best towards all of his work, which is not always a popular choice with students in his age group. Osiris also shows his ability to be a responsible leader as one of the lead technical support team members in his classroom.”

Kaylen Chase
8th Grade Student, 
 Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School, 
Inglewood, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“Kaylen’s scholastic abilities have transferred into her role as a peer tutor to her fellow classmates in the areas of math and English. Currently, she works with an English Language Learner and is assisting her with building confidence and literacy skills. Kaylen is a remarkable leader who demonstrates excellence in her abilities to be a well-rounded student and a lifelong learner.”

Yanely Santiago
12th Grade Student
, Da Vinci Science High School, 
Hawthrone, CA

Nomination Excerpt:

“For the past few years, Yanely has worked at the local elementary school providing academic support to struggling students. She works in a supervisor capacity where she coordinates support services for “at-risk” youth. She enjoys mentoring younger students as it fosters their self-confidence and provides a reassuring environment. She noted that participating in these activities has helped build important skills and attributes like leadership, communication and self-esteem.”