New York, NY: Schools That Can (STC), in conjunction with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), have announced finalists for the first ever RFK Urban Education Awards. The annual ceremony will honor an urban school leader, teacher, and student from across education sectors who have turned adversity into opportunity with a Robert F. Kennedy Urban Education Award.


Kate Kennedy will present the awards at the Gala Dinner at the STC National Forum May 15th, 2014 in Harlem, NYC.

“Robert Kennedy dedicated his life to justice,” said Kate Kennedy, presenter of the awards and granddaughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. “The United States Department of Justice is housed in the Robert Kennedy building in Washington DC as a tribute to the man who dedicated his life to civil rights. For people my age, education is the civil rights issue of our generation. Just as it was important to single out civil rights leaders in the 50s and 60s, it is important to do the same today. That is why I think this award in the name of my grandfather is relevant to urban youth today.”

“We are at a defining Sputnik moment in education where our future quality of living standards and ability to compete globally will be determined in the next five to ten years,” said Michael Druckman, Executive Chairman at Schools That Can. “As a reflection of Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy, we must commemorate our fellow Americans defying the status quo and learn from them as models of success.”

School Leader Finalists:

Ralph Bland
Detroit Edison Public School Academy (DEPSA); Detroit, Michigan
School Sector: Public Charter

“Ralph included like minded business leaders, civic and community leaders to join him in the fight to establish a quality education benchmark that could stand the test of time and change the mindset of traditional school leaders… Under the leadership of Ralph Bland, DEPSA has over 1200 students located right in the middle of a targeted revitalization area within Detroit. DEPSA is the first and only Blue Ribbon charter school in the State of Michigan.” – Brooke Franklin, New Paradigm for Education; Detroit, MI

Father Edwin Leahy
St. Benedict’s Preparatory; Newark, NJ
School Sector: Independent

“In 1972, a group of monks left the Newark Abbey, home to St. Benedict’s Prep, after closing the school because of the changing demographics of Newark. Father Edwin was chosen by his fellow monks to lead the school as it reopened and he has continued to lead it for 41 years… Under Father Edwin’s leadership and direction as Headmaster, St. Benedict’s has grown to over 550 students from around the region, the state, the country, and the world. The property has grown to 13 acres, including a dormitory, world class gym and pool complex, library, and fields.” – Erin Sweeney, St. Benedict’s Preparatory

Frank Lozier
Laurel Street Elementary School; Compton, CA
School Sector: Public District

“Frank Lozier could have ended up as another statistic summing up the plight of men of color. As a high school student in Oakland, he was homeless and essentially had to raise himself. Rather than letting his circumstances determine his destiny, Frank saw education as the one stable institution in his life: the path to forging his own future. Rather than seeking pity from his teachers, he sought out the most challenging classes that would put him on a path to college… As a principal, he has led his school to an Academic Proficiency Index to above 900 (out of 1000) for three consecutive years. His Compton students are performing at par with their more affluent peers in Beverly Hills.” – Roy Quinto, American Martyrs School, Los Angeles, CA

Teacher Finalists:

Rachel Friedman
Civicorps Academy; Oakland, CA
School Sector: Charter

Catherine Mendez
P.S. 69X Journey Prep; Bronx, NY
School Sector: Public District

Jennifer Tobin
LEARN Charter School, Campbell Campus; Chicago, IL
School Sector: Public Charter

Student Finalists:

Marisol Santiago
P.S. 69X Journey Prep; Bronx, NY
School Sector: Public District

Angeline Dishmey
P.S. 254 The Rosa Parks School; Queens, NY
School Sector: Public District

Jefferson Guaman
VOICE Charter School; Long Island City, NY
School Sector: Public Charter

In addition to the RFK Urban Education Awards, this year’s STC Forum, The Power of Transformation in Urban Education, will also feature workshops, panels, and presentations led by education thought leaders including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NY State Education Commissioner John King, “Grit” researcher Angela Duckworth, Harlem Children’s Zone Former President & CEO Geoffrey Canada, and others. Sessions will be held on creating 21st century learning environments, teaching cognitive skills, building community engagement with urban schools, sharing innovative schools practices, and more.

About Schools That Can: STC is a national nonprofit that improves the quality of urban education for the 21st century by working across education sectors with high-performing and high-potential schools. STC facilitates peer to peer learning, partnerships, equips students and leaders with 21st century skills, and provides peer recognition and support locally between schools and nationwide between cities for the purpose of sustaining and growing high-performing urban schools. Its current network of schools serves over 52,000 students nationwide.
For more information, contact Stephanie Whited, 646.335.3987,