Beacon Academy closes the achievement gap for a cadre of Boston’s bright and determined students. Through education and social advocacy, we help our students create life-changing opportunities as they build lives of integrity, economic independence, and impact.
Trusted with the responsibility of an exceptional education, Beacon graduates are bold contributors to a more authentic, just, and compassionate world.
Cindy Laba and Marsha Feinberg founded Beacon Academy in July 2005 to address under-education in Boston. Their mission was to create a “jump year” for a small group of bright, motivated, under-educated Boston area 8th graders eager to escape the downward spiral of education failures, economic dependence, and social challenges that low-income students face. Cindy and Marsha’s vision was to give these students the academic, social, and emotional tools they would need to earn scholarships at competitive independent high schools around New England and achieve success in high school, college, and into their first careers.
Cindy conceived of this extra year between 8th and 9th grades in 2003-’04, after she’d completed her first year as Vice President of City on a Hill Charter School in Boston. In her previous role as a psychiatric social worker, Laba had become all-too familiar with the challenges structural inequality posed to Boston’s most vulnerable children and adolescents. Even so, she was surprised to confront the immense obstacles low-income students faced as they reached for first-rate educations. She refused to accept the stark contrast between the experiences of students at City on a Hill and those of affluent students in local independent schools.
Cindy moved this concept from an idea to specific program by partnering with Marsha, a social entrepreneur and consultant with decades of experience in strategic planning, fundraising, and community building. Together, they raised seed money, hired staff, secured in-kind classroom and administrative space at Temple Israel Boston, and recruited a group of low-income students of color willing to give Beacon a try. They prepared admissions staff at selective, independent high schools to consider applications from their students by sharing their vision that by providing scholarships to well-prepared Beacon grads, they would positively transform classrooms and campuses. Affluent students would be enriched by a racially and socioeconomically diverse group of learners who could handle the academic work and contribute a range of perspectives often missing in elite spaces. Low-income students of color fully prepared for success would share newly accessed privilege with families and communities frequently cut off from the best Boston and New England have to offer.
Beacon realized early on that our graduates were facing racism, isolation, and other obstacles to success in high school and college, despite the best intentions of the fine institutions that accept and fund our students. It was clear that more than a one-year commitment to our students was necessary. In order to battle what The Boston Globe’s 2019 Valedictorians Project calls a “cascade of social alienation, debt, family pressures, and academic anxieties that more affluent peers often sidestep with financial and other assistance from parents who can help guide the way,” Beacon developed our 10-Year Model. We now provide Secondary School, College, and Career Programs that guarantee support, guidance, and annual alumni gatherings which creates a community of achievement through high school, college, and beyond.