HEAF 2023 Gala

Bringing Our Students’ Futures Into Focus

Learning Through Adventure

HEAF Students Make an Impact in Ecuador

HEAF opens doors to college and careers for students from underserved communities across New York City

We’re opening doors for youth in New York City’s underserved communities.

HEAF is a high-impact college access program that provides academic enrichment, personal development, college prep and career exposure to middle and high school students from New York City’s underserved communities. HEAF makes an 11-year, fully-funded commitment to students beginning in sixth grade to bridge gaps and drive success.


of our students graduate from high school and are accepted to 4-year colleges

years changing the lives of young people


of our students earn bachelor degrees

College Decision Day

Each year, HEAF convenes “College Decision Day” — a celebration of graduating High School Seniors from like-minded college access programs serving students from the most underserved communities across NYC. College Decision Day gives our students, their families, friends and college access program teams a chance to celebrate their successes, and their futures. In 2022 our live event featured keynote speaker Neil deGrasse Tyson. HEAF is proud to partner with college access programs across NYC to deliver the celebration our high school seniors deserve.

portrait of Saint Thomas Jacques

Saint Thomas Jacques

Current HEAF Student

“HEAF has helped me come out of my shell to share my ideas and opinions,” Saint Thomas says. “The teachers helped by making the class a comfortable space for me to share.”

Saint Thomas says he has enjoyed exposure to guest speakers from among HEAF’s network of volunteers and supporters. Reflecting on his time so far at HEAF, he says participating in Book Club last summer and learning about food insecurity are two things that have had the biggest impact on him.

portrait of Petiri Reed

Petiri Reed

Volunteer & Associate Board Member

Petiri serves on HEAF’s Associate Board, and has volunteered with our students for more than three years. A colleague at Bloomberg invited Petiri to attend a HEAF Open House to learn more about volunteer opportunities and he has been committed to HEAF and its students ever since.

“During the HEAF Open House I attended more than three years ago, I was immediately impressed by the inquisitiveness, hunger and drive of the students,” Petiri says. “That coupled with the energy and enthusiasm of the staff told me everything I needed to know — it was an immediate match.”

Petiri says he is proud to participate in classroom activities, to volunteer with colleagues and to spend time tutoring HEAF students because he knows these enrichment activities help bridge education and opportunity gaps: “The early exposure to business concepts and specific industries provide insight that can help structure a path for HEAF students to clearly pursue their goals.”

Building one-on-one relationships with HEAF’s students, staff and fellow volunteers has been a highlight for Petiri and he credits extra-curricular events like HEAF’s annual Film Screening with fostering less transactional, more meaningful discussions and connections than typically occur at networking events.

As an active member of HEAF’s Associate Board, Petiri plays a central role in helping develop and implement meaningful experiences for HEAF students leveraging all that the organization’s volunteers can bring to the table.

portrait of Sahara Gipson

Sahara Gipson

HEAF Volunteer

Sahara was introduced to HEAF by a friend and HEAF Associate Board member who recruited her to volunteer for a one-time resume and interview workshop with the students in Harlem. She’s been a consistent volunteer ever since!
“During my first volunteer experience, I was inspired by how committed the students were to their own development,” Sahara says. “I was involved in similar programs growing up and they had such a huge impact on who I am today. I consider my volunteering with HEAF an opportunity to pay it forward, as so many had done for me.”

Sahara helped coordinate a team of colleagues for ongoing career development classes as part of HEAF’s Industry Immersion program.

She says: “When we transitioned to remote work, having a consistent time each week to interact with a class of HEAF high school students was such a highlight for me; getting my colleagues involved has been even more meaningful. HEAF’s impact is powerful and I am proud to be a part of the growing community of volunteers. These students are the future!”

Two HEAF middle school students proudly display their project
A HEAF student enjoys math class.
A HEAF student between classes.
A HEAF student waiting for his chess tournament to begin.

HEAF has a 34-year track record of delivering strong, permanent outcomes that exceed NYC and national averages.

100% of our students graduate high school on time — the 2019 average is 67% for African Americans and 64% for Hispanic students in Harlem.

Nearly 100% of our students enroll in four-year colleges immediately after graduating high school — in NYC 57% of students enroll in college or career programs within 6 months of graduation.

83% of our college students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years — nationally, the average is 37% for African American students and 42% for Hispanic students who are enrolled in private four-year colleges.

Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2023

Class of 2023 College Commitments

Clark Atlanta University

CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College

CUNY Hunter College

CUNY Lehman College

DePauw University

Lincoln University

North Carolina A&T State College

Penn State University

Soka University of America

SUNY Binghamton University

SUNY Plattsburgh

Syracuse University

Virginia State University