On February 9, the Ellen Show aired a segment in which host Ellen DeGeneres presented a $25,000 check to administrators at Summit Academy Charter School in Red Hook.
Summit Academy executive director, Natasha Campbell, along with Principal Cheryl Lundy Swift, made a surprise guest appearance on the show to discuss their students, their faculty, and the Red Hook neighborhood.
Campbell was inspired to help students in the Red Hook area achieve academic success while working as the former director of the Police Athletic League with the Miccio Center. She noticed that the children she worked with wanted to succeed, but they weren’t given the educational opportunity to do so.
On the Ellen Show, Campbell noted that Red Hook is “one of Brooklyn’s most underserved communities” with “over 28% of children under 16 living in poverty.”
“We serve the children that come from that housing development,” she added. “We serve those children daily.”
Lundy Swift noted that the teachers in the school come early and stay late, working hard to ensure that each student is given the opportunity to succeed. She explained that staff at Summit want to make sure that “our school is like a family.”
The show also took the time to play short clips of what Summit students had to say about their school.
“I was told that I couldn’t do that much, and Summit helped me achieve my goal of pushing myself, and now I’m on the honor role,” one young woman explained.
“When I walk into school every day,” another student added, “I feel like it’s just another day of getting closer to my dreams.”
On February 22, the Ellen Show invited the two Summit administrators back, this time with the entire Summit senior class.
During the segment, Ellen spoke both with administrators and students about their life experiences and how Summit had helped them achieve more than they’d ever imagined.
One student expressed, “[Summit] made my dreams and goals more realistic. With teachers like them making it possible, everything is just easier.”
Another added, “I’m not going to be a disappointment. I’m going to be somebody.”
At the very end of the show, DeGeneres announced that through funding from the Walmart Foundation, she was offering each of the 41 seniors at Summit a four year scholarship to any State University of New York (SUNY) school that they choose.
The donation, which in full amounts to $1.6 million dollars, is the largest gift ever given out on the show.
Summit Vice Principal, Tim Vetter, remarked that “This experience is proof that hard work leads to positive outcomes.”
He added, “Our scholars have pushed hard to overcome personal obstacles, put in extra time during office hours, attended Saturday Academy, taken on extra coursework to make-up lost credits, among a multitude of other trials. I can’t think of a more deserving group of scholars.”
Vetter also noted that the entire experience had filled the senior class with emotions – from happiness to shock to gratitude. He said that on the ride back from the show, the Summit seniors thanked Summit staff members for making this opportunity possible for them and enthusiastically sang the school’s creed along with school songs they had learned during their time at Summit.
“There is a community of extremely hard working people who are invested in our scholars’ futures. This includes our parents, scholars, teachers, counselors, deans, and administration,” Vetter explained. “The positivity and excitement is reverberating throughout our community, and I can already feel how it is further fueling our efforts for our underclassmen as well.”