History of ACLA

ACLA's 2012 construction

ACLA's founding and early years

Recognizing the need for college readiness for underrepresented students in and around the Bushwick community in Brooklyn, ACLA's founding principal, Mr. Elvis Estevez, created an after-school enrichment program in 1994 to address these issues by teaching young people leadership and life skills necessary to succeed beyond the post-secondary level.  This  program was based in the neighborhood in which he had been raised and had returned to work as a teacher in a local NYC Board of Education junior high school.   In 2000, Community School Board District 32 of Bushwick approved the program, All City Leadership Academy (“ACLA”), to operate as a junior high school academy at I.S. 162 where Mr. Estevez was then an Assistant Principal.  Two years later, he became principal of I.S. 347 and transferred ACLA’s staff and students with him to his new assignment.  As the founding class of ACLA entered eighth grade and with the students and their families clamoring to continue the program into high school, Mr. Estevez and a team of school community members applied  for and received a New Visions grant to create a new NYCDOE small school. 

All City Leadership Secondary School (32K554) officially opened its doors as a standalone NYC Department of Education School in September 2003 with two sixth grade classes, two seventh grade classes and one class each of grades eight and nine for a total of 126 students and 15 faculty and staff members.  After one year of sharing temporary space between two other middle schools, we were privileged to move our student body into a brand new community center owned by our partner, community-based organization Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Inc. (RSBCC) (now Riseboro).   For the next eight years, we continuously adapted our programs and staffing to fit their facilities.  The dance room with fully-mirrored walls was a full-time classroom; the weight room served as the office and classroom for special education services; science labs and experiments were conducted in regular classroom space; grab and go student breakfasts and lunches were brought in daily; and when the bell rang signaling the end of the school day, the building converted to full use by programs run by RBSCC. 

We were thrilled that a permanent building, connected to our then-current facility but physically designed as a school by School Construction Authority, with full sized classrooms, a library, a science lab, an auditorium and a full-service cafeteria, opened in September 2013, allowing us all the opportunities of not only a full-scale facility but also a doubling (at full scale) of our student body along with the budget and faculty to support our expanded capacity.  This expansion gave us pause to reflect on our current practices as a school and to embrace the opportunity to plan strategically for our future staffing, program offerings and school culture.                                                                    

The 2010-2011 school year marked an important milestone for us, as members of our first graduating class became college graduates (one of whom notably joined our faculty in 2012, with two more alumni joining us since then).  We believe that our sixth through twelfth grade model in a small, personalized, safe environment with a strong culture of academic rigor and leadership training is the strong foundation upon which we continue to evolve as a school.  As with all new schools, we celebrate our successes yet continuously examine our shortcomings, always seeking to improve the educational experience for our students by reflecting, revising and improving what we do.