Brooklyn, NY, — Imagine Me Leadership Charter School is an all-boys K-5 school located in East New York, Brooklyn with Black and Hispanic boys. Bright eyed, focused and in test mode, eighteen highly intelligent 10 and 11-year-old boys sat eager to take the Living Environment Science Regents exam, which is a required test for New York State. When asked what their area of specialty was students such as Nathan Soler,11 said “biology and genetics,” while James Livingston,10 expressed an affinity for genetics.
Many of the Talented 18 come from underserved communities such as East New York and Brownsville, which proves children can excel under the right conditions. Under the care and guidance of principal Bevon Thompson and George Leonard, Director of Curriculum & Instruction — the Talented 18 took the test at Boys and Girls High School in room 329 where Leonard first taught Regents Biology as a first-year teacher under the leadership of principal Frank Mickens, known as the Chancellor of Fulton Street.
Leonard worked for the Science Skills Center at PS 9 where he prepared students from grades 3-6 for the Biology Regents for six consecutive years. The youngest student to pass the Living Environment Science Regents under Leonard’s instruction was eight years old.
Many of these students are now doctors and scientific researchers. Fast forward, decades later and he has done it again with the Talented 18. It was a full circle moment for Mr. Leonard, indubitably one of the best science teachers in the country. Dr. Katherine Corbett, IMLCS’s executive director, is responsible for supporting the efforts of both Leonard and Thompson for many years. As a catalyst, she helped get the Talented 18 to this amazing point in their lives. Thompson gave the boys a final motivational talk as their assistant teacher, Ms. Vanessa LaBranche cheered them on. A testament to the hard work and faith the staff have in these young boys, Thompson candidly uttered, “Good luck, even though I know you won’t need it.”
A year earlier Thompson and Leonard took a pilot group of 8 fourth graders where five passed the exam. In 2017 they prepped the students as if they were in high school. This year it was decided to make the program longer and stronger to get the best results. Pastor David Brawley of St. Paul’s Church, was the Founder of Imagine Me Leadership Charter School and the visionary for the foundation and theme of the all-boys K-5 school. He believed wholeheartedly in the school’s future success.
The Nelson Mandela High School for Social Justice ran by principal Tabari Bomani is a small school located in Boys and Girls High School. They opened their arms to sponsor the Talented 18, so they could take the test on high school grounds. With stringent grading imposed — twelve of the eighteen fifth graders passed the ninth-grade Living Environment Regents exam, which is a groundbreaking feat with such a large group.
Leonard ignites, “If we are going to be able to compete with other nations we have to examine how we teach our children.” He added on by saying, “These boys have practiced every Living Environment Regents from 1990 to the present.These students are going to specialized middle schools and high schools. In their minds, they know how important this is and they are only 10 and 11 years old. They already have bright futures ahead of them where they will avoid the prison pipeline.”
The Talented 18 include Kevin Kearney, Thierry Smith, James Livingston, Damani Williams, Jordan Blake, Allen Greene, Tristan Dildy, Alexander Adames, Levi Bennett, Preston Kittrell, Joseph McMichael, Nathan Soler, Jahisiel Lopez-Soto, Marquise Alleyne, Sterlin Rutherford, Christopher Underwood, Tekhi Robinson and Christopher Battle.