Banks writes book on his Eagle schools’ success

By Juan Soto

Parents get upset when their kids are not admitted into an Eagle Academy school’s sixth grade class due to a lack of seats. After all, the all-boys public school network has an excellent reputation and a high school graduation rate of more than 80 percent. College acceptance for the graduates is 100 percent.

The academic center’s main goal is to help struggling at-risk young men so they can succeed, first academically and then professionally. The idea behind the network is to improve graduation rates among young men of color. The Eagle Academy inner-city schools are composed of 77 percent African-American students, 17 percent Hispanic and 6 percent from other backgrounds, including Asian.

Applications to Eagle Academy public schools are subject to the lotteries run by the city Department of Education.

In his recently published first book “Soar. How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character,” David Banks, founder, president and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, said one of the keys for the students’ success is to “always support them.”

Banks, who received his law degree from St. John’s University, pointed out that since a lot of inner-city students grow up without a father figure in their homes, the boys in his program are paired with mentors.

“A young man without a mentor is like an explorer without a map,” said Banks, who was raised in southeast Queens.

While 90 percent of African-American households had a father figure in the 1920s, he said, today the percentage of households with a strong male presence for boys is about 30 percent.

“This is a terrible situation,” said Banks, who had a recent book signing event in southeast Queens to promote “Soar” and spoke at several churches and community centers. “But Eagle activates possibilities.”

The Eagle Academy network is a consortium of six schools. The one in Queens, located at the intersection of Linden and Merrick Boulevards in St. Albans, was the third one to be founded. It has about 400 students in grades 6 through 12.

Applications to Eagle Academy public schools are subject to the lotteries run by the city Department of Education.

“Parents tell me that their son didn’t get into Eagle Academy, so I wrote the book to inspire and help transform those young boys’ lives,” Banks said in an interview. He was a principal at the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice for 11 years.

In the book Banks said at Eagle “our job is teaching young men, and we must look for those who understand that mission.”

Banks cited several success stories in the book, including the one from Brenton James. He became the first Eagle student to be accepted into an Ivy League school. In fact, James was admitted to two. He enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania.

“Creating a new school is challenging,” Banks said. “And creating an all-male school has another set of challenges.”

Also challenging was putting the book together but rewarding, he said. “Writing the book for the past couple of years was a great experience,” Banks said. “It reflects the work that we have been doing.”

With the six Eagle schools (one in every borough and the sixth one in Newark, N.J.) up and running, Banks intends now to set up the Eagle Institute, an organization that will train and show educators and academic experts how to establish Eagle schools nationwide.

“When all our six schools are full to capacity, with about 4,000 students, the idea is to create the next wave of Eagle schools,” Banks, who was also a public schools teacher, said.

In the book Banks said for him success for young men means transforming them into “scholars who excel in learning, citizens with high character, and professionals who succeed in their characters.”

The author wrote in “Soar:” “When we achieve all three, then we help to nurture not just good students, but people who can use their education to change their lives and their communities.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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