Academics at BELA

A transformative educational opportunity that ignites girls’ curiosity and creativity.

Young people are transformed at Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA) Charter High School. Our rigorous, college preparatory curriculum provides a solid foundation for our students to take their next steps with confidence. We help young women cultivate the skills they need to graduate from high school and college and become visionary leaders, active community members and lifelong learners. Students are actively engaged in the learning process and our educators inspire and empower them to succeed.

Our instruction emphasizes both breadth and depth of learning with opportunities that stretch and challenge our students. This approach embodies what students will experience at the college level and is a fundamental philosophy of our International Baccalaureate program. A culture of achievement allows each young woman to be the best version of herself.

Learner centered

Academics at BELA put the female learner at the center of the learning process. Our academic program is specifically designed to meet the needs of young women in our community. BELA classrooms offer a flexible, culturally rich learning environment that provides equal access to all students. Instruction is personalized to accommodate individual student learning styles, abilities and interests. 

Project based

Project based learning yields a number of benefits for students, ranging from deeper understanding of the content to a stronger motivation to learn. Project based learning also promotes the skills students need to meet the challenges of college and career. Students are challenged to think critically and work collaboratively to discover solutions to questions and problems grounded in complex, real-world scenarios. By making learning relevant and personal to students, they come to appreciate the context and purpose of their learning.

Highlights of our program

  • All-girls environment: Single-sex instruction, particularly for girls, leads to greater academic engagement, higher academic self-confidence and stronger educational outcomes.
  • Rigorous college preparatory academic program: International Baccalaureate (IB) program, STEAM pathways, Latin, project-based learning, personalized instruction and extended instructional time support high student achievement and meet the needs of every student. 
  • Intersectional perspective incorporated across curriculum and in our flexible learning environments.
  • Ethnic Studies programming connects coursework to students’ personal and cultural backgrounds while challenging them to question their own preconceived ideas. 
  • IB program provides a well-rounded, holistic approach to readying our students to attend college. 
  • Intensive literacy and math support 
  • Student Support Services
  • Wellness Approach

Course Sequence Guide 

“Access is often one barrier preventing young women of color from pursuing STEAM fields. At BELA we are committed to extending this opportunity to all our students.”

– Nicia Fullwood, Co-founder, Head of School

STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics

Girls’ schools are leading the way in STEAM education for women in the world.

BELA girls are STEAMinists! Women and especially women of color remain underrepresented in STEAM fields, which are among the highest-paying and most in-demand careers now and into the future. We aim to change this! Our innovative, four-year STEAM curriculum builds girls’ confidence to pursue STEAM in college and as a career. 

Students develop in-demand, real world skills and knowledge through engaging, hands-on classroom instruction. They are encouraged to ask questions, think deeply and critically and solve problems. Whether or not they choose to pursue a career in a STEAM field, students are given the opportunity and space to explore STEAM concepts; come to understand the connections between the humanities, math and science; and acquire 21st century competencies that are key indicators for success.

  • Three inquiry-based STEAM pathways – Engineering, Biomedical Science and Graphic Design – enable girls to explore real-world challenges and gain hands-on experiences in areas like biotechnology, 3D printing, robotics and graphic design. 
  • Partnerships with Wacom and Makerbot ensure leading-edge, academically rigorous STEAM instruction.
  • 1:1 Technology: One MacAir laptop for every student. Flexible learning spaces allow for collaboration in the classroom. 
  • Students develop an understanding of STEAM concepts in a meaningful and culturally grounded context.
  • Throughout the year, through events such as our Women’s Symposium, students have opportunities to interact with successful STEAM professionals.
Graduates of girls' schools are
more likely to consider majoring in math, science and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering compared to girls who attended coed schools.

Ethnic Studies Elevates the Voices of Young Women of Color

Cultivating critical consciousness in the classroom.

The mission of Ethnic Studies Language and Literature at BELA is to merge the skills of literacy and critical consciousness through the voices and perspectives of Black, Indigenous, cis-, trans- women and gender-expansive young people of color. 

When students witness themselves and their experiences and cultures reflected in their classroom, they are more engaged, and school becomes more relevant. At BELA, students interact every day with mentors and material that have roots in their own communities. They see the connections between what they’re learning and how they can apply it to their real lives.

We believe that critical literacy is rooted in identity exploration and grown through project-based learning that asks students to interpret, analyze and question texts, themselves and the world. 

Developing critical consciousness inspires academic achievement. BELA’s Ethnic Studies curriculum consistently builds our students’ literacy skills while encouraging critical thinking to challenge the dominant narratives. Students demonstrate fluency through composition and creative work that stirs their imagination and cultivates their curiosity. Ethnic Studies takes a joyful approach to helping students recognize and celebrate their diversity. 

Students are empowered to embody sociopolitical activism and critical reflection through acting on learning–cultivating change and liberation in our world.

Through learning and acting on learning, students will ask and answer, “How can I be part of change?” BELA teaches students how to critically analyze social forces and to take action against systems of inequality and inequity. 


“We are constantly making space for joy. This is what Ethnic Studies is. It’s about recognizing oppression in order to cultivate continued resistance, resilience, ingenuity, creativity and abundance.”

– Radha Radkar,
Ethnic Studies Department Leader 

Go Grow

Providing students with a range of opportunities to pursue their individual passions.

From learning to cook their favorite recipes to showcasing their creations in our makerspace, Go Grow electives allow students to explore their interests and talents, learn or hone skills and clarify career paths in areas that fall outside of our required academic schedule. In their junior and senior years, students take on leadership roles as Go Grow facilitators.

We have explored student interests around: Anime, Student Government, BELA Sorors STEP, Coding, Drawing, BELA Bakers , ScriptEd, Just Rock DJ-ing, #BELAInfluencers, Volleyball, Dance, Sewing, Speech and Debate, and Pinterest.

“Leadership Academy helps families feel connected to the school. They always know who their ‘person’ is.”

– Shannon Riley,
Dean of Advancement

Leadership Academy

Preparing young women to be the next generation of leaders.

BELA Leadership Academy is a four-year advisory program designed and structured to provide our students with holistic support from the time they enter BELA. Reflective of our intentional approach to educating the whole girl, Leadership Academy creates an enduring support system for BELA students that helps them develop academically, socially and emotionally. 

Students in small groups of no more than 12 girls are assigned a mentor teacher in the 9th grade. These groups and their dedicated mentor teachers meet daily and stay together throughout their four years of high school. Their mentor teacher becomes a liaison between school and home, developing a trusted relationship with students and their families and keeping families up to date on their children’s progress. Mentor teachers also support student participation in student-led family conferences (SLCs). 

Steeped in our core values, BELA Leadership Academy:

  • Fosters resiliency and leadership skills. 
  • Brings the service learning aspect of the BELA mission to life! Students conduct a community needs assessment and engage in a group community service project.
  • Empowers girls to advocate for themselves, their peers and their community and grow their public speaking and debate skills. 
  • Improves life skills. Students learn about financial literacy, job interviewing and preparing for the college admissions process through weekly college readiness classes. 
  • Creates community and a connected school culture.
  • Lays the foundation for student success.

BELA is an IB For All School

BELA is the only IB school in Bedford-Stuyvesant and one of only two IB girls’ schools in the country.

Through our two-year International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, BELA students learn to think critically, creatively, ethically and globally. The internationally renowned academic rigor of IB coursework is aligned with BELA’s pursuit of academic excellence. The program provides a well-rounded, holistic approach to readying our students to attend college. 

BELA is an IB for All School. This means that in their junior year, all students have the opportunity to  enroll in the IB course of study with the intent to graduate with an IB diploma. This coursework requires students to speak publicly, debate and facilitate discussions with their peers. It encourages curiosity, challenges students to speak out on injustice and helps them become active, compassionate lifelong learners. Through the IB program, BELA students have an opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school.


Our unique, holistic approach to wellness bridges mind, body and spirit. 

Students navigate growth, development, identity and personal health and well-being through an innovative hybrid of classroom discussions and coursework, and creative physical activity that keeps students fully engaged. 

Our teachers thoughtfully guide their classrooms through topics related to body image and self esteem, sexual and reproductive health, personal values, peer pressure and decision making, mental health, and healthy relationships and communication skills. Girls explore activities like ballet, circuit training, self-defense, meditation and yoga. They come to understand the importance of their mental and physical health to their overall well-being and why taking care of their minds and bodies is a vital, lifelong undertaking.

“We take a very thoughtful, intentional approach to wellness that really resonates with our students. Our young people love the class. It is entirely different from what many of their peers at other schools are experiencing.”

 – Shannon Riley,
Dean of Advancement

Postsecondary Success

Committed to seeing students into and through college.

Our Postsecondary Success Program is designed to help students develop the academic and social-emotional skills they need to be successful in high school and equipped for post-secondary education. Individual self-discovery and exploration at BELA allow students to identify and cultivate their passions, strengths and values — enabling them to feel confident, informed and prepared to choose a post-secondary pathway.

Our graduates know they have a support system in BELA even after they leave us. BELA’s alumni coordinator will remain connected to our alumnae year-round, encouraging and supporting them on their college journeys. We will ensure our new graduates feel connected to a strong community of friends, family and BELA peers, and we will welcome them back to share their successes, and to inspire our future graduating classes.


We work with a variety of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of all children.