November 1, 2022
Dear Ascend Community,
I am extremely excited to share that Ascend Public Charter Schools was recently selected for an unsolicited $11 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott! This is the largest single donation we have received in our nearly 15-year history. We are so humbled to be chosen by Ms. Scott. It is a testament to the amazing work that our staff does each and every day in service of nearly 6,000 students in grades K-12. This donation comes at a pivotal time as we plan to open three new school facilities, strengthen our program and deepen our impact within the Brooklyn community.
Over the last year, we have reflected on our past and visualized our future. With input from our board, staff, students, and our families, we reframed our purpose, mission, and values. We focused on the phrase ‘unlocking lives of boundless choice’. To us, it means equipping our students with the privilege of choice. Privilege offers options and opportunities, and it is not a term typically associated with historically underserved students. Our students come to us with big dreams, and we need to empower them with our own sense of daring and high standards for ourselves and our work. That is why Dreaming Audaciously is one of our core values.
At Ascend, we are in service of all our students. We help every one of them embody their inherent excellence by providing rich and joyful learning experiences, and ensuring equitable access to education through our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Antiracism (DEIA). The diversity of our staff and executive team aims to reflect the cultural richness of our student population which is over 90% Black or LatinX. Most importantly, we are intentional that diversity manifests in everything our students are taught. We are working to ensure that our staff members are provided with all the essentials they need including spaces for nursing mothers, respect for religious traditions, LGBTQIA+ support, and so much more.
We are unapologetically Brooklyn; this is our home! We had the option to open Ascend public charter schools in other parts of New York City but decided our focus will remain on our borough. Our core philosophy has always been to deepen and strengthen our impact in Central and East Brooklyn. Our commitment to that purpose has yielded results. Our students have achieved higher than the NYC schools average in Mathematics and English test scores in 2021-22. In fact, we have consistently outperformed the city’s results for the past several years. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, but our work in Brooklyn is not done. We continually strive to enhance conditions for academic and economic success in our community.
As a Black CEO with family roots in Brooklyn, leading Ascend is also personal for me. I first moved to Brooklyn in 1998 and have lived here on and off since. My wife is a Brooklyn native, born to Haitian immigrants. For years, she marched for the rights of those, who like herself, were looked down upon by society because of their race, culture, gender, and background. As a social worker today, she continues her mission. We are raising two beautiful teens, trying our best to help them make sense of the world that is in flux. They need what all of our children need, an inclusive environment with quality education that inspires and supports their dreams and goals.
We are truly grateful to Ms. Scott for her belief in Ascend and the work we do. This gift will help our students envision bold futures and give them the privilege of choice. As a school community, we will act on our unwavering belief that together, we can help fulfill their dreams of success and empowerment.
Recy Benjamin Dunn
Chief Executive Officer
Ascend Public Charter Schools
by Brenna McCallick + Stephen Barker
Students pursuing careers in tech, health care, cosmetology, or other skilled trades are exploring postsecondary alternatives to two- and four-year college. OneGoal Fellow in New York Makayla Ransom sees vocational...