In 2008, Harlem Lacrosse co-founder Simon Cataldo joined the faculty of Frederick DouglassAcademy I (FDA) in Harlem as a special education math teacher with Teach for America.Simon struggled in his first year, so he introduced lacrosse as a way to engage his mostacademically and behaviorally challenged students. With eleven students and ten sticks, the team took the field and Simon had a revelation: by coaching, encouraging and motivating students on the field, he was then able to accomplish great things with them in theclassroom. At the end of the school year, Simon’s players posted the highest scores on the state math test by Special Education students in FDA’s history. When the team grew to 35students in 2011, Harlem Lacrosse was formed to create a holistic youth servicesorganization around the idea that what students need to reach their full potential is to beimmersed in an activity in which they take pride, led by a caring mentor, tutor and coach who can help them build confidence and skills on the field and in the classroom.
Harlem Lacrosse provides middle school participants in-school support and out-of-schoolopportunities through an intentional program design centered around four core goals: 1) academic attainment; 2) social-emotional growth; 3) deep personal engagement; and, 4) high school and college advancement. Each element is cultivated and reinforced in our wrap-around programming, which includes athletics, academics, and cultural enrichment. Students engage in a wide breadth of activities in order to cultivate self-esteem, growth mindset, perseverance, collaboration, academic excellence, and healthy life habits.
Harlem Lacrosse now serves over 1000 students in 5 cities across the country and in Boston, we serve 275 students across 10 programs.
During my 6th grade, Harlem Lacrosse came to Concord for the first time and formed a strong bond between the two communities. This was my first interaction with the organization. As a tiny, lanky attackmen, I thoroughly enjoyed playing side by side with the players and spending time with both communities. As Harlem Lacrosse grew, the annual traditions were never lost and can still be seen today. For me, the organization's values and goals represent something I feel strongly about: the power of education and leadership in changing the trajectory of at-risk youth. Now, as a college student, I have been fortunate to watch many of the kids achieve tremendous accomplishments across society and want to help more students reach their goals.