Achievement First is committed to serving students in historically low-performing and underserved neighborhoods. We now educate more than 8,100 students in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.


Breyon Chapman

Eighth Grade, Amistad Academy Middle

"I realized I was a good student when I came to Achievement First. I didn't always think that about myself."

During his years at Amistad Academy Middle, Breyon has relished competing on the soccer and lacrosse teams. He has also excelled in math and science, not only in the middle school’s classrooms, but also on the campus of Roger Williams University. The school’s summer program, which allowed Breyon to live on the college campus for three weeks, was one of his favorite middle school experiences. He plans to spend six weeks at Lafayette College this summer as he prepares for a future that includes a college degree and a career in science or engineering.

When Breyon came to Amistad Academy as a fifth grader, his brother Shykwon—now a freshman at AF Amistad High—told him it would be a lot of hard work. Breyon finds the work challenging, but said it is easy to pay attention in class because his classmates don’t cause disruptions, as they had in other schools he had attended. He also feels safe at Amistad Academy; he hasn’t seen the bullying he encountered elsewhere, and he has been able to gain confidence in a safe environment. Breyon likes coming to school because of the lively teachers and fun lessons.

Favorite aspect of Achievement First: "I love science because it gets your mind working and you can conduct experiments. I also love the field trips; we studied at Nature’s Classroom, visited a museum in Boston and stayed at a college in Washington, D.C. It was fun to see what it is like to be a college student."

Proudest moment at Achievement First: "I was really proud of my group’s work at the ‘Town Meeting’ last year. We studied Greek and Roman mythology, wrote a play using what we learned, and performed it in front of the entire school."

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Jennifer Watson

11th Grade, AF Brooklyn High

"Achievement First pushes me to think. I have never felt more driven to tackle difficult work as I have at this school."

Jennifer has always excelled academically, but she hasn’t always been challenged by her studies. At Achievement First, Jennifer hasn’t been allowed to be complacent. Her work always forces her to think deeply, and her friends from her neighborhood are surprised by the collegiate nature of her assignments. She feels the rigorous environment in the school will give her "a leg up" when it is time for college, where she plans to study aerospace engineering.

Jennifer loves that she is involved in many aspects of AF Brooklyn High: she plays volleyball, serves as co-captain of the Latin Club and is secretary for the school’s student government. She especially enjoys the school’s pre-college programs, through which she has studied chemistry, Latin and architecture at Choate Rosemary Hall and has taken classes in debate and history at Princeton University. There, she learned to ask more probing questions, hone her skills in persuasive reasoning and manage the many time constraints found in a college environment.

Favorite aspect of Achievement First: "My favorite part of Achievement First is having a tight-knit community. In my advisory, we talk about academics, issues we are facing in our personal lives and our challenges. I feel like you can talk about anything."

Proudest Moment at Achievement First: "My proudest moment was when I got the highest Latin score at AF Brooklyn High on the National Latin Exam. My parents came to the school to surprise me and to watch me get my award."

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Benny Garcia

Fourth Grade, AF Hartford Academy Elementary

"If I didn't go to this school, I wouldn't learn in class. Achievement First cares about students and has teachers that really want to teach you."

When Benny arrived at AF Hartford Academy Elementary in first grade, he struggled to control his behavior. Sometimes he became so angry that he stopped following directions and walked out of class. Three years later, that is a distant memory. With the help of teachers and paraprofessionals, Benny learned to work past his frustrations and enjoy school, showing his teachers and classmates respect.

Now, Benny loves math and is excited to learn division and multiplication tables. He was recently awarded a certificate for achieving more than 85 percent proficiency on his math assessment. Since he has embodied the REACH values, Benny has earned many extracurricular field trips. During one of his favorite trips, he and some of his classmates watched a live hip-hop performance. Benny was also among a group of students who showed outstanding progress in math and earned a trip to a UConn basketball game, where they were selected from the crowd to play a game during a timeout. Benny also sees himself as a leader. He and his friend wrote a letter to the school’s principal proposing a “dress down day” for all students based on success with academics and citizenship goals.

Favorite aspect of Achievement First: "I like being taught, especially math and writing. In writing, we are learning how to flesh out a story from the beginning to the end."

Proudest moment at Achievement First: "I am most proud of controlling my anger. If I feel angry, I still follow directions. I learn a lot in class now; I feel like I am really smart about everything."

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Ashly de la Merced

First Grade, AF Bushwick Elementary

"I like it when the teacher speaks with me in Spanish; it makes me feel happy. I know I can learn to read every word."

When Ashly first arrived at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary in kindergarten, she didn’t speak much English and had not yet learned to read. An English Language Learner whose family emigrated from Mexico, Ashly began meeting four times a week with an ESL teacher who spoke with her in Spanish and helped her learn how to read by sounding out English words. Soon, Ashly had found her favorite book, “Elephant and Piggy,” and was reading three English books and one Spanish book each day.

Last year, Ashly read at an “A” reading level. Now a first grader, Ashly is a proficient reader who has reached the “H” reading level, a seven level increase. She loves writing and art, and she recently encouraged her older sister, Arely, to become a student at the school. Ashly’s latest goal is to improve her reading fluency and reach a second-grade reading level this year.

Favorite aspect of Achievement First: "I like to read and write; it is fun to make pictures in your brain when you are reading. I like the teachers because they teach us a lot and play games with us."

Proudest moment at Achievement First: "When I first got here, I didn’t know how to read some of the words in my books. I showed hard work because I didn’t skip the tricky words, and I learned all the words by sounding them out and reading them over again."

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Achievement First Students

Achievement First was founded on a central core belief: that all children, regardless of race or economic status, can succeed if they have access to a great education. Our sole focus in every classroom is on driving student achievement while providing all students with the academic and character skills they need to graduate from top colleges, succeed in a competitive world and serve as the next generation of leaders in our communities. We are committed to serving all students—including those who are English Language Learners and those with special needs—who come through our doors. We work hard to help every student, especially those students who struggle, in making the right choices, and we provide extensive support through our individualized approach and small-group instruction.