Storefront Academy Harlem was founded in 1966 by Ned O’Gorman, award-winning poet, author and community activist. Ned saw incredible potential in Harlem’s children, and knew that they faced staggering challenges to living safe and productive lives. He dedicated his life to changing theirs.
Storefront Academy began as a safe space for neighborhood children, where they learned about the world beyond their neighborhood. In 1981, Storefront Academy grew into an elementary school, and graduated its first class of eighth grade students in 1989. With the opening of the school, we created a choice about education in a neighborhood and for families that had no choices. Since then, we have maintained a single-minded dedication to serving children who face obstacles each and every day in the pursuit of their education.
Our history tells the story of a transformed New York City, a revived and vibrant Harlem neighborhood and a profound and positive change in educational opportunities for many of the City’s children. Storefront Academy is an important player in this story. We have been and remain a steadfast and transforming presence on East 129th Street. We came when no one would; we stayed when no one did. Today we are a vital, active member of this renewed and energized community.
Storefront Academy Harlem: Timeline
1966-1978: Launch and finding a home
Ned O'Gorman arrives in Harlem to teach in Poverty Program at All Saint's Church and begins The Children’s Storefront (now Storefront Academy Harlem) as a small program for neighborhood children on Madison Avenue between 128th and 129th Streets. The program functions as a library, an after school center and a drop-in site for all neighborhood children. Food and quiet nap-space are provided for about 50 children a day.
In 1970, the original Storefront building collapses, and the fledgling school moves into a second Madison Avenue storefront. Only five short years later, the second Storefront building collapses and the program, now serving approximately 60 children, moves into the basement of All Saint's Church. The Storefront is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with a Board of Trustees and establishes its tuition-free policy.
1979-1989: Building a tuition-free private school
In 1979, the Storefront rents the basement of 57 East 129th Street, our first permanent home, and begins its official expansion in 1981 into an elementary school by opening a first grade (each subsequent year, one grade is added). Soon after, the Storefront’s Board of Trustees buys the building at 57 East 129th Street and begins renovations.
In the first of its enrichment programs, the Storefront opens a residential summer camp in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1983 on the property of a Board member.
1988 sees the purchase and renovation of a second building at 61 East 129th Street, and in 1989, the Storefront's graduates its first eighth grade class.
1990-2009: Formalizing our model and academic program
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Storefront purchases two houses on the present site of 70 East 129th Street in 1990, with renovations combining the two into one large school building.
In 1993, a major grant establishes the Storefront's after school program, and the following year sees the launch of the Women’s Mentoring Program for 7th and 8th grade girls.
The New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) grants the Storefront full accreditation in 1994, following a yearlong evaluation period.
After many years, founder, Ned O’Gorman leaves the school in 1998 and Mark Tashjian is named the second Head of School in the Storefront’s history.
In 2002, Kathy Egmont is named the third Head of School in the Storefront’s history, and enrollment reaches 170 students.
The Food Network and celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, award a new kitchen makeover to the school in 2005, valued at over $50,000.
2010-Today: Building for the future and expanding our impact
In 2010, a new building, 59 East 129th Street, is purchased, with plans to increase classroom space and small group work areas. Wendy Reynoso joins the Storefront as its fourth Head of School.
In May 2014, The Children’s Storefront becomes Storefront Academy Harlem, with the unveiling of the new name and a new logo at the organization’s annual spring gala.
In 2014, Alexis Thomason joins the Storefront as its new Principal.
Following nearly fifty years of success educating children and families in Harlem, Storefront Academy Harlem’s Board of Trustees decides in 2013 to pursue replication of our successful academic model. An application to open a second school, a public charter school, was submitted to and approved by SUNY Charter School Institute. Storefront Academy South Bronx opened to new students and families in fall 2015.