Photo Story: More2Life and The Sojourner Truth School

Writing and photography by Jenae Hyde


Sojourner Truth transformation

In 2014, the state of New York designated schools in the lowest 10% of student academic performance as renewal schools. Sojourner Truth fell into this category.

“Because of its chronic absenteeism, low student performance (in addition to being on) the potentially persistently most dangerous schools list, it was given that designation of renewal, which means it would be provided with wraparound supports in order to help it transform itself into a school in good standing,” head principle Claudia Aguirre said.

Although Sojourner Truth is in one of the wealthiest school districts in New York City, the school is one of the highest poverty schools in the district. Aguirre, a Columbia University alumna, said their poverty rate is about 99%.

According to the More2Life Foundation, two years after the school was named a failure, it is in good standing with the New York State Department of Education for the first time in over a decade. Math proficiency among students at the school has increased by 162.5% since 2018. In that same time, proficiency in English language arts has increased by 24%.

Aguirre said More2Life has helped her incentivize what she called some of their less attractive goals, such as attendance. They have done so through gear, gift cards, recognition and a mentorship program.

The More2Life Foundation also provided Sojourner Truth with a $10,000 donation in August 2018 to use toward their needs. The donation helped fund things like instructional materials, educational trips, classroom libraries, winter clothing and uniforms.

BYU football visits Sojourner Truth

In addition to the assistance they provide throughout the year, the More2Life group visited Sojourner Truth at their Harlem location on June 24. The players and coaches divided up with each grade level for classroom sessions as well as award ceremonies, lunch and outdoor activities. 

During the classroom sessions, the players shared their personal backgrounds, answered questions, led an activity and handed out More2Life and BYU gear. Each student received a T-shirt, BYU and Sojourner Truth stickers and a lanyard.

Two award ceremonies were also held — one for the Pre-K through third graders and another for the fourth through eighth-graders. At these ceremonies, the students’ academic and attendance achievements were recognized.

The day was concluded outside with inflatables from the school’s carnival, basketball, 4-square, catch, spikeball, Jenga and catered Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

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