LEAP program brings two rival schools in the Bronx together for the first time through arts activities

Two schools in the Bronx have been kept apart for years despite being in the same building. But now, there is a program is helping bridge a gap between students and faculty.
It’s all in hopes of creating a collaborative community.

It’s a merging of minds through movement, music and a mutual mission.

“To ensure that adults and kids feel safe about being in this building,” Edgar Lin, principal at M.S. 22 (Jordan L. Mott), said.

For many years, this place was underachieving, chaotic and quite dangerous.

“When I was in 6th grade, we couldn’t walk up to this floor and hey couldn’t go down there because it was an immediate fight,” Wilfredo Fermaintt. a former student who now volunteers, described.

“There was a deeply embedded rivalry between the two schools,” Monique Jarvis, LEAP Deputy Supervising Director, explained. “I’ve seen times where there were like mini riots.”

Jordan L. Mott and Bronx Writing Academy share the building and both took tremendous pride in defending their school, sometimes going too far.

“Some people would bring weapons and try threaten the other school, it was bad,” Fermaintt said.

Administration would keep them apart at all costs, even separating after school activities, until now.

“I’ve learned that judging is not really good” Neriana, an 8th grader at M.S. 22, said. “We would think oh they’re bad but then we started to meet them and they’re like a whole different story, they’re nice.”

They’ve come together, for the first time, through ‘ LeAp’, a nonprofit that offers unique, hands-on arts programs. It’s all part of a new collaborative model.

“It’s more fun!” Netesha, an 8th grader at M.S. 22, smiled. “You get to experience new things and you get to meet new people.”

“To see these kids playing together, working together, and studying together, is just mind blowing,” Jarvis said.

It’s a chance to dance, draw, and dream big! Not only do the nearly 400 students have fun, they’re also furthering their education.

“We try to incorporate as many things with history or things that are happening right now,” Neriana explained. “It’s just better dance with a purpose.”

LeAp also offers various sports for those who express themselves through exercise.

“Outside of the court we’re friends but on the court, there’s still kind of a rivalry,” Davonte, an 8th grader, said.

It’s about presenting a creative and constructive environment for students to spark their curiosity and build a sense of community.

“One of the things LeAp allows and provides for is for kids to be able to exercise their brains in different ways and being able to do that makes your brain stronger,” Lin said.

And for those who run the program, they know how important it is to show up for these kids every day.

“Just making sure they don’t leave without hearing I love you, thank you for coming, and we appreciate you being here,” Jarvis smiled.

While it was only implemented a couple months ago, it seems to be off to a successful start.

“I’m often moved to tears just watching the kids interact with one another and walking out together, smiling, is really an amazing feeling,” Lin smiled.

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi

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