Distinguished Alumni Award Winner
“I think in many ways that the rich and fulfilling opportunities that Maret afforded me still serve as a model for what I believe all children deserve, no matter where they live, no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their personal circumstances.”
When Richard Berlin ’88 took over as Executive Director of Harlem RBI in 1996, he thought it would be for a year or two. 20 years later, he’s still working with the non-profit.
From its meager beginnings on a $100K budget and a staff of one, Harlem RBI has grown, as Richard describes, “into a thriving community organization with a budget of $13 million, serving more than 1,300 youth every year with a full-time staff of 100, a part- time staff of 200, and over 200 volunteers providing more than 25,000 hours of service each year.”
All of the youth that play on the baseball or softball teams must also be enrolled in yearlong educational and enrichment programs to ensure that they become physically and mentally healthy high school graduates who matriculate to college. Beyond that, Richard explains, the goal is to see these students graduate college with the life skills “to take them beyond the often confining boundaries of East Harlem, and to also return so that they can give back to the community and organization that helped them succeed.”
In the last 10 years, 99% of Harlem RBI youth have graduated high school and 95% of those have matriculated to college. According to Richard, in a community where more than 50% of young people drop out of high school by age 17, these numbers are impressive. In 2008, to deepen its impact in East Harlem, Harlem RBI opened DREAM Charter School, a K–8 Charter School that has grown to serve nearly 450 students in 2015. The organization is finishing a $55M campaign and currently preparing to break ground on a $90M facility that will serve as the organization’s headquarters and school, and will include 90 low-income housing units and a newly rebuilt public park.
Richard hopes that the current success of Harlem RBI will translate into another location in New York or soon after in other cities. As he reflects on the potential to help more children, he looks back to his own teenage years at Maret. “In addition to making great friends [at Maret] and learning from great teachers in a supportive, caring, and challenging community, I think in many ways that the rich and fulfilling opportunities that Maret afforded me still serve as a model for what I believe all children deserve, no matter where they live, no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their personal circumstances. The leadership at Maret—both adults and students—knew well how fortunate all of us were to be in such a healthy and vibrant community, and how our good fortune also endowed us with a great responsibility to put something back into the world that is good and meaningful.”