Class of 2019 Senior Brielle Nieves reflects on her journey at LEAP Academy

April 11, 2019

More Than a Movement

As I approach the final few weeks of my time as a LEAP Academy student, I have begun to reflect on the make special moments that have made my journey at LEAP so special. Being a student at LEAP Academy in Camden, NJ is about more than simply excelling as a student leader. As a graduating senior at LEAP, we are called to a higher and more meaningful purpose than to just simply attend school each day. My senior year at LEAP has pushed me to better understand my place in the world, and how important it is for me to share the unique story of my journey. I am a lifelong LEAP Scholar, and I have spent my entire life progressing through the LEAP Pipeline. Making it to my senior year was especially meaningful because I have followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers, Elvin, who graduated from LEAP Academy in 2005, and Brian, who graduated from LEAP Academy in 2010. They both paved the way for me to create my own unique path through the LEAP Pipeline, and I have taken on this opportunity in hopes that I can pave the way for future generations of LEAP students. LEAP Academy provides each of its graduating seniors with the opportunity to take college level coursework through the LEAP Early College Program, and I have soaked up this experience like a sponge. I had always envisioned myself taking college coursework as a college freshman, never realizing that my LEAP Academy community had spearheaded a movement to leverage dual-enrollment opportunities. When I first stepped into my English Composition I course at Rutgers University-Camden during the Fall 2018 semester, I felt the tremendous weight of the lofty expectations hanging over me. However, I also felt empowered and emboldened, and I confidently introduced myself as a LEAP Academy high school student to my new classmates. Needless to say, they were shocked to find that a high school senior had been selected to take such a challenging course with college freshman and sophomores. As I searched for words to explain the long chain of events that led me to that college classroom, I kept hearing the words that were repeated to me by my teachers and guidance counselor: “it’s a movement.”

When I think about all of the moving parts that go into building partnerships with universities, it helps to view things in the context of a movement. Although it was only my voice explaining the story of LEAP Academy to my classmates and college professor, my confidence in that moment came from understanding that the LEAP movement is much larger than just my own personal success. LEAP Academy, and its founder Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, have championed change in my Camden community, breaking through barriers that many thought were impossible. My future success is a testament to the dedication of those who laid the foundation for the LEAP Pipeline. I truly cannot wait for the moment that I will walk across stage as a graduating senior, because it will represent my own personal impact in pushing the movement forward. In the Fall 2019 semester I will be attending Rutgers University-Camden, and I will have the added luxury of having completed nearly two dozen college credits through the LEAP Early College Program. My legacy as a LEAP alum has been built by my willingness to take on the tremendous learning opportunities that are leveraged by the LEAP movement, and I will use the power of my personal journey to inspire other students to achieve success. LEAP Academy is truly more than just a movement. LEAP Academy is a miracle!