Charter Schools

Charter School Uses Sports Curriculm to Draw in High-Risk Students

Using athletics to try to keep kids from failing on the education side


Carlos Bermudez, 15, started the first day back at school in Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy the same way he starts every school day, working with his team and his coach. The coach asked Carlos to give his "high point" and "low point" from the storm-induced week off from class. Carlos's high was that he had arrived at school early that morning. His low was that his diabetic godmother—his legal guardian—was still in the hospital after having a second leg amputated below the knee. Like so many of his classmates at the two-month-old Urban Dove Team Charter School, the lows for Carlos have been lower than any teenager should know.

Also like every other student at UD Team, as the school is known, Carlos arrived "overage and under credited." (Read: desperately behind graduation pace.) He was approved for a safety transfer from Manhattan's Murry Bergtraum High last year, after gang members threatened him and he stopped showing up at school. So Carlos's "high" of coming in early, commonplace on the face of it, is something of a minor miracle. But then, his day doesn't start as it would in a normal school.

The team with which he began the day is not a sports unit but rather a group of students who have every class together. (And who accumulate points, Hogwarts style.) The coach is, in fact, a sports coach, but he is also an adult mentor who travels with the team through every class. After discussing the hurricane week and doing homework—all homework is done in the morning with the team—Carlos boarded a school bus with the rest of the UD Team students and headed to soccer fields on the south end of Brooklyn's Prospect Park. By 10:30 a.m. dozens of boys and girls were warming up in soccer cleats bought for them by the school. It was a Monday, so for two hours the entire school—104 students are enrolled—played soccer under the supervision of coaches, at first the boys and girls separately and then together.