"I knew SEO would give me the best chance in the long term, but in the short term, I had work to do.

I spend my days in school and my weekends at SEO. Every other moment is spent sorting bottles. I don’t have time for sports, TV or just being a teenager. But with SEO, it feels like I have a way out. I'm not looking for charity, just opportunity. That’s what SEO has given to me. "
Dillon, Haverford Class of 2021

The Challenge

Large achievement gaps by race, gender, and income continue to exist in K-12 education in the United States. Despite being the largest and most diverse city in the country, New York City students from low-income backgrounds continue to face the same challenges reflected in our national achievement gap.

Fewer than half of the students who graduate from NYC public high schools graduate “college-ready”, with the lowest levels in the Bronx and Brooklyn, where students are disproportionately Black and Hispanic/Latinx. (source)

A 2017 study found significant gaps in achievement among different ethnic groups in math and reading standardized test scores, as early as third grade. By eighth grade, the gaps widened, with a significant decline in performance for Black and Hispanic/Latinx students in both subjects.  (source)

Schools that serve predominantly Black and Hispanic/Latinx students have less qualified teachers than schools that serve predominantly-white students.  (source)

Yet, we know that students assigned to “high value-added” teachers not only increase their test scores, but are also more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in neighborhoods with better resources, and have higher retirement savings.  (source)


of SEO Scholars are accepted to four-year colleges.

"When I first heard of SEO I had zero interest, but my friends all applied.

At 13, I was unmoved by the promise of opportunity, I did succumb to positive peer pressure. And SEO changed my life. SEO believed in me more than I believed in myself."
Julio, Stanford Class of 2022

SEO empowers individuals to move from high school to college by focusing on college graduation.

  • 100% of Scholars complete and submit the FAFSA. SEO Scholars in NYC apply for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program and receive one-on-one support to complete the CSS Profile for institutional aid.
  • SEO Scholars regularly win competitive national scholarships including QuestBridge National College Match, The Posse Foundation Scholarship, The New York Times College Scholarship Program, and Horatio Alger Scholarships.
  • The NYC SEO Scholars High School Class of 2023 was awarded more than $4.1 million in scholarships and grant funds for their first year of college alone.

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Get to know the dedicated individuals who collectively support our Scholars in New York City.