A School Just For Girls in the Heart of Bed-Stuy

Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA) Charter High School is an all-girls high school located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. We are a community school steeped in the history and culture of our surrounding neighborhood. BELA welcomes young women and their families from District 16 and nearby areas who are seeking an exceptional, college preparatory educational experience within a joyful, nurturing environment.

The mission and values of BELA are alive in our community from the minute you walk through our doors.

Our Mission: To empower each young woman to be the best version of herself. Through a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, service learning initiatives and a commitment to cultivating a spirit of ownership within each young woman, BELA students will attend and graduate from college

Our core values inspire everything we do. You’ll find these values embedded in all facets of the BELA experience.

We believe in a community of young women who uplift, encourage, empower and challenge each other, well beyond their time at BELA, serving as eternal lifelines.

We believe in a stimulating learning environment that promotes academic achievement, intellectual confidence, innovation, exploration and lifelong learning.

We believe in taking care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically to build the strength and resiliency needed to achieve our goals.

We believe in the power of our personal responsibility to engage and invest in strengthening our local and global community.

Our History

Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy was borne of a strong desire to expand educational opportunities for the young women of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. We were inspired to create a special kind of learning environment, one that would embrace the endless potential of these dynamic young women and young people and set them on a trajectory for success in high school, college and in their lives and careers beyond.

In 2016, co-founders Nicia Fullwood and Shannon Riley embarked on a journey to develop a school that would offer a holistic approach to girls’ education, coupling high academic standards with high-touch, social-emotional support. The pair, who met years earlier while working together counseling girls at the Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, had deep ties to the Bed-Stuy community and were encouraged in their vision by families searching for something different for their children. 

For more than a year, we engaged in extensive and ongoing dialogue with families, parents, community leaders, local politicians, students, education advocates and other schools in our district. Their voices motivated us and helped shape the model for today’s BELA. 

On August 28, 2017, we officially opened our doors to welcome BELA’s inaugural freshman class! Sixty girls joined our community that day – pioneering young women up for the challenge of co-creating alongside us a school culture based on sisterhood, scholarship, strength and service, and carrying our mission and core values forward for future classes. Today, more than 250 girls across four grades make BELA their second home. This year we celebrate these amazing stewards of BELA. Our first graduating class – the Class of 2021! 

“Sending your student to BELA means sending your student to a community where they are seen and heard for who they are while being encouraged to be their best selves.”

– Camile Gayle, Dean of Student Life

Our Students Embrace Their Potential To Change The World

Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy puts girls first. Guided by our core values of sisterhood, scholarship, strength and service, BELA works to challenge, uplift and empower the exceptional young women who make up our dynamic community. In this close-knit environment, students are surrounded by peer role models and mentors who send the message every day that nothing can stand in their way. 

We believe it is equally important to cultivate good learners and good people. A BELA education is intentionally designed to develop students intellectually, socially and emotionally. Our whole-girl approach means BELA students receive the support and attention they need to reach their full potential. Students tell us all the time that BELA is truly a place where they feel heard and understood.


We are all in this together. BELA is co-creating our learning space alongside our students. Here, girls have a voice and choice in the learning process. We encourage an environment where student voice matters and students are inspired and expected to contribute to the community. Students respectfully question norms and challenge conventions to develop their own identities within their rich cultures and communities.

By living our mission, BELA aspires to create agents of change who will make their mark inside and outside the classroom.

The All-Girls School Advantage

BELA girls know: Nothing can stand in our way.

Why is BELA’s all-girls environment the right choice for your family?  It’s simple. At girls’ schools, girls thrive. Research from the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) demonstrates the girls’ school advantage:

Students at all-girls schools have higher aspirations and greater motivation than their female peers at coed independent and public schools.

99% of students at all-girls schools expect to earn a four-year degree.

More than 2/3 expect to earn a graduate or professional degree.

“Girls at all levels of achievement in the single-sex schools receive a…benefit from the single-sex school environment in terms of heightened career aspirations—an effect unprecedented in any other portion of our study.”

—Dr. Cary M. Watson, Stanford University, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research

Single sex schools help to improve student achievement, especially for females across a variety of cultures.

More than 80% of girls’ school graduates consider their academic performance highly successful.

Nearly 80% of girls’ school students report most of their classes challenge them to achieve their full academic potential compared to 72% of girls at coed independent and 44% at coed public schools. 

Girls’ schools prepare girls to become women who rise to the highest levels of leadership. Girls lead with courage, competence and empathy.

At girls’ schools, girls demonstrate great confidence in female leadership and become increasingly interested in leadership positions themselves.

93% of girls’ schools grads say they were offered greater leadership opportunities than peers at coed schools and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating from high school.

A majority of girls’ school graduates report higher self-confidence than their coed peers.

Girls’ schools encourage girls to find and exercise their voices at a young age.

Nearly 96% of girls’ school students report receiving more frequent feedback on their assignments and other course work compared to 93% of girls at coed independent and 80% at coed public schools. 

A study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education observed, “more positive academic and behavioral interactions between teachers and students in the single-sex schools than in the comparison to coed schools.”

In all-girls school environments, students see a wealth of role models. 

The overwhelming majority of girls’ school students agree to strongly agree that they feel supported at their schools: 95% feel supported by their teachers compared to 84% of girls at coed schools, 90% report feeling supported by other students compared to 73% of girls at coed schools, and 83% feel supported by their school administrators compared 63% of girls at coed schools.

Girls’ schools are free of stereotypes about what girls like or where they excel.

Over 88% of girls’ school students report they are comfortable being themselves at school, which means they are free to focus their energies on their learning. 

93% of girls’ school grads are very or extremely satisfied with their school’s ability to provide individualized attention, and 80% strongly feel encouragement to develop their own interests. 

Nicia Fullwood

Head of School

Shannon Riley

Chief of Staff

Camile Gayle

Chief of Student Affairs

Faculty and Staff

Inspired teachers are our greatest instructional strategy.

It requires a special kind of teacher to work at BELA. Our teachers are committed to this journey with our young women every step of the way. They value the relationships they make and keep with our students and families. Their love of teaching, their mastery of their subjects and their unfailing encouragement and support are key to our students’ success. 

BELA teachers do the work of understanding and exploring their own identities and they bring that into their classrooms. Students can see themselves reflected in the learning experiences and this type of teaching resonates. BELA faculty challenge and inspire our young women to become the best versions of themselves, lifelong learners and stewards who will go forward to make a difference in their communities. 

Guardians of the BELA mission.

Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA) Charter High School’s Board of Trustees is the school’s governing body. They are responsible for the long-term well-being of our school, and they serve as guardians of our mission. They provide oversight of BELA’s financial operations and they help set the course for our future development. Our board includes individuals whose expertise and experience add value to BELA. 

Join Our Team to Empower Young Women

Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA) Charter High School believes that our greatest instructional strategy is our staff. Effective educators, who are continually learning and supporting our young women, with an expectation of excellence, are key to each student’s success. BELA’s founding team members seek inspiration and challenge from their work; seek to understand themselves and their colleagues to better achieve a shared goal; show the urgency and gratitude that accompanies doing something you love; embrace the possibility of failure and believe failures are necessary for learning.

BELA is an intentional learning community focused on learning, collaboration and results. We know the best educators are themselves lifelong learners. We support our faculty with robust professional learning experiences.