Donald Ruff Credit: Contributed

The Eagle Academy Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower young Black and Brown men while improving students’ educational career paths and future. The foundation has six college-preparatory schools located throughout the five boroughs of New York City and Newark, N.J. Donald Ruff was recently welcomed as the foundation’s new president and CEO and shares his goals and visions for the future. Ruff has been with the Eagle Academy for 16 years, where he began as the founding director of college counseling and strategic partnerships. His dedication to education has led him to many of his accomplishments within the field, for there is no doubt that he is the perfect contender for his newly appointed position.

Ruff explains how the fuel that pushes him to do the work he does today is rooted in how he grew up. After being exposed to a private school setting and seeing how that differed from his previous public school setting, it ultimately opened his eyes to the inequalities of education. “I saw early in my life that there were some inequalities when it came to education—as a matter of fact I didn’t even know I was considered poor or low income until I went to private school,” stated Ruff. He then went on to explain that “success shouldn’t be a lottery” when expressing how everyone should be offered equal opportunities of education regardless of wealth. 

The Eagle Academy works to advocate for Black and Brown youth in both school settings and beyond the classroom. Ruff explains, “It’s not just about graduating our guys, it’s about who they become in the world, and so much of that has really shaped our expanded vision at the academy.” The Eagle Academy prides itself on setting young men up for success, and also teaching them what to do with that success. Ruff explains how financial literacy and workforce readiness are essential tools the Eagle Academy pushes for, in order to ensure these young men are economically empowered even post-grad.

“Financial literacy is something that is sorely missing in so many low-income communities and we want to be able to empower our young men in that fashion and create that ecosystem for them to be successful,” says Ruff.

The Eagle Academy has effectively highlighted the graduation and post-graduation rates and used that to centralize their curriculum to best benefit students’ future success.​​ Ruff explains how these real-life scenarios will provide them with the tools to succeed. By not only teaching students fundamental skills but also preparing them to implement that in the workforce, “We want students to be able to graduate with an employable skillset and understanding how money works.”

Ruff’s hope now that he is president and CEO of the Eagle Academy is to create an ecosystem where Black and Brown boys can be successful not just within the network of the Academy, but throughout the city and the world.  

“My greatest dream is to be able to coalition build and bring these entities together and create that environment where Black and Brown boys and men can be successful in life.”

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