Teaching New York City’s kids isn’t always fun and games, so it is always gratifying to see how sport and education can interact. The perfect example of how that works is reaching its 10th anniversary with a special celebration on May 30, Manhattan’s Business of Sports School. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, BOSS has impacted the lives of thousands of high schoolers in its decade of existence, showing them how they can take even a small passion for sport and turn it into a vocation. The school has been aided by a very unique board and a diligent principal in Dr. Joshua Solomon, and together they have been able to marshal support from everyone from LeBron James and Steph Curry to Madison Square Garden and ESPN to raise additional funds, create internships and jobs, and most importantly, maintain and grow graduation and test scores well beyond the New York City average. We caught up with Dr. Solomon to learn more about what makes BOSS run. For all the info on the school check out https://www.nycboss.org/
NY SportsDay: Has the goal of the school changed in the ten years at all?
Dr. Joshua Solomon: Back in 2008, the BOSS founding team designed the school to appeal to students who were at risk of not reaching their high school graduation, but who love sports. We wanted to offer a four-year program that would teach students both the required academic content and also a foundation of business skills and experiences. This model has helped ten years of students build on their interest in sports to create an academic path to college and a sense of what they want to do when they get there. Our graduation rate has risen well above the average New York City high school graduation rate. But in a country where 60% of “first-gen” college students don’t graduate, our goal has shifted to giving our students the academic skills and financial knowledge to stay in college through college graduation. That means even more emphasis on building mentoring relationships that last through college and on increasing the level of our curriculum so that all our students feel fully prepared for rigorous college programs.
NYSD: What are your proudest moments as principal?
JS: One thing that makes BOSS special is the exposure to the New York business world, and I am always so proud when our students win business plan competitions or I hear from an internship coordinator at a partner company that one of our students performed well in their internship. But my proudest moments are seeing our alumni when they come visit us. To hear those stories of success in college really makes me feel that we have been successful in preparing them for the next level in writing and analysis. I particular love hearing from students who are majoring in sports management or business because they tell me that they are far ahead of their peers in college in those courses.
NYSD: Tell us about a few of the surprising success stories from your students over the years?
JS: Our first cohorts of students have now graduated from college, and I’m excited how many have taking leadership roles in college and won recognition for their accomplishments. For instance, one recent BOSS alum was named top multicultural student by the American Advertising Federation and is currently working as a college director. A recent college grad from our first cohort is serving as disabled services coordinator at Madison Square Garden. I know that as more and more BOSS grads complete college that many more success stories will emerge. I have to add that the some of the most surprising success stories have been the number of young men and women who completed our Navy JROTC program while at BOSS and then went on to enlist in the armed services in Afghanistan and other overseas posts.
NYSD: Are your surprised that this model hasn’t really been replicated nationally? Why is that, in your opinion?
JS: Some groups from other cities have come to visit BOSS, but I’m surprised that the model hasn’t been replicated more nationally. Every city in America has young people disengaged from their regular middle and high schools, so the demand is there. And every city in America has a college and/or pro sports industry and related media and businesses who could partner with a school to make an exciting and relevant educational program. That said, it takes a faculty and leadership who can create curriculum that bridges the gap between the business community and the students, most of whom have no prior exposure to the professional world. I also think that ironically because the sports industry is so hot and their is so much demand for internships and network from college and graduate school students, that many sports organizations focus their educational efforts on older, more mature students, rather than at-risk teens.
NYSD: Areas like STEM and analytics are becoming so valuable both in and out of sports, have you see an increase in interest or changes to curriculum to take advantage of those growing areas?
JS: Our main focus up to now have been our business curriculum, but we are starting more and more to increase students’ math and analytical skills. Next year, for example we are offering a new course in Advanced Placement Statistics, and I know that teacher is excited to create curriculum that incorporates sports analytics. We would also like to develop curriculum that introduces students to sports science and physiology. Our focus on STEM will continue to grow.
NYSD: Lastly where would you like to see the BOSS school be in terms of achievement 10 years from now?
JS: In 10 years, when most of the members of BOSS’s industry advisory board are former BOSS students, I’ll know that we have really succeeded. I would like to see a strong network of BOSS alumni throughout the New York sports and business community, who can come mentor and offer internships to our students of 2029. In 10 years, I want a diploma from BOSS to symbolize entry into that alumni network of industry leaders.