The History of the ISP Program
When philanthropist and entrepreneur E. H. Harriman founded the country’s first official Boys’ Club in 1876, his goal was to get inner-city boys off the streets of the Lower East Side and into a place where they would be safe, learn better manners, and engage in more constructive activities. By the 1930s a new challenge became clear: the boys attending BCNY were smart, talented, potential community leaders that were being held back by their tenement neighborhood surroundings.
The visionary solution was BCNY’s pioneer Independent School Placement Program. After a historic $2 million dollar contribution in 1956 from prominent New York City attorney and BCNY Trustee Victor Morawitz, BCNY’s “Education Program” was established.
The Education Program became an unprecedented commitment to help identify, prepare, and place inner-city boys into independent boarding and day schools. In its inaugural year, the Education Program sent a small group of BCNY members to Phillips Andover, Mount Hermon, Exeter, and Taft, and by 1957 the newly envisioned Independent School Placement (ISP) program was born.
In 1956, Director of Education Thomas E. Mansfield described the obstacles facing boys in his community:
“Within the tenement communities of New York, there are undoubtedly hundreds of boys, twelve and thirteen years of age, whose talents and ambitions are such that we might expect them to become men of considerable educational stature. However, many of them will probably never go beyond high school because they will find themselves in homes without guidance, schools without challenge, communities without understanding. This is a serious waste of talent and though there is probably no single solution, there is something that can be done.”
The ISP Program Today
Today, the Independent School Placement Program is the oldest program of its kind in the nation and remains highly successful in its commitment to help identify, prepare, and place inner-city boys into academically rigorous independent boarding and day schools nationwide. To better serve the entirety of the Boys’ Club’s membership population, the ISP Program is now part of BCNY’s High School Access initiative.
BCNY members interested in ISP must fill out a High School Access academic profile with their education director. Members who demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence as well as interest in enriching extra-curricular activities, both at BCNY and beyond, will work with High School Access staff to develop a plan for applying to independent boarding and day schools.