Spreading the Word About the Value of a Brilla Education

This article is written by the members of the Brilla Schools Network’s Enrollment and Outreach Team. The authors, Alexa Bonilla and Stephanie Frias, describe their work and the impact it has on the wider Bronx community.

Brilla Public Charter Schools were founded to give families in the Bronx a high-quality, free option for their child’s education. The Brilla option is high-quality in a holistic way. In our model, high academic expectations and performance are critically important. Indeed, our scholars score well above their neighborhood peers in state assessment exams.  But we also think developing virtue in our young scholars–particularly wisdom, courage, justice and self-control–is essential to our work as educators. Our classical curriculum, which exposes students to enduring truths, provides a deep well-spring of opportunity to enkindle within them the desire to lead a virtuous life. A Brilla education aims to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions not just to get into college but also to lead free, flourishing lives. Our job as the Enrollment and Outreach Team is to make sure that Bronx families know that this kind of education is available to them.

Our team’s work includes hosting virtual information sessions, meeting with families, partnering with community organizations, and advertising (perhaps you’ve seen our bus ads around the Bronx!). All of these tasks have the same purpose: spread the word to local families that Brilla is an option for them. Since Brilla is a charter school, a Brilla education is free, public, and open to all.

One of the authors of this article, Stephanie Frias, poses with a Brilla bus add.

We tell prospective families about what makes Brilla different from other schools. One important feature that sets us apart is that we view families as the primary educators of their children. Families come to school as pillars of the community. We seek to partner with families and to support them in their task of educating their children. We recognize that, when a family enrolls their child in a Brilla school, they enter into a sacred trust with us. We take this responsibility very seriously.

Another important feature of a Brilla education is our emphasis on developing the whole child—mind, body, and spirit. Our mission statement reads, “Brilla Public Charter Schools, K-8 schools in the classical tradition, help students grow intellectually, socially, and physically into young men and women of good character and spirit.” We educate children in character by embedding our core virtues throughout the school day and providing all with the resources and experiences to develop a flourishing life. We also use the Love and Logic approach, which reinforces that virtuous behavior is a good thing in and of itself and supports strong adult-child relationships.  We foster an intentionally joyful school culture and partner with El Camino, which is an optional Catholic afterschool program. To help scholars develop physically, our program includes martial arts and dance. A Brilla education seeks to educate the whole child (not just the mind).

Our mission statement identifies that Brilla Schools are “schools in the classical tradition.” This is another distinguishing characteristic of Brilla. We believe that people flourish by living out the virtues. A time proven way of learning how to live out the virtues is to learn about, contemplate and discuss how these virtues have been expressed by fictional and nonfictional people throughout history represented in time-tested works. This is what a classical curriculum aims to do. Classical education is about learning and applying universal Truths. It is not about inculcating a political ideology or solely about acquiring skills. Our curriculum at Brilla includes a broad array of cultures and perspectives, and students are challenged to make connections across cultures in order to abstract Truth. 

As the Enrollment and Outreach Team, we tell prospective families about the impact this kind of education will have. Both of us ended up in our jobs because of the transformative influence education has had in our lives. We both grew up in the Bronx and, thanks to teachers who challenged us to work hard and develop our character, were inspired to dedicate our lives to ensuring many other children in our community would have the same opportunity. Brilla provides young people with that kind of education. Indeed, it changes lives and transforms communities. When you meet a young person like the one described in our Portrait of a Graduate, you wish more people could receive an education like this one.

If your child or anyone you know is interested in receiving an education like this, apply to Brilla today! This year’s lottery is quickly approaching on April 2nd. Submit an application before then or reach out to us at (929-422-0128) or apply@brillaschools.org.

About the authors:

Alexa Bonilla serves as the Director of Enrollment for Brilla Schools Network. In this role, she oversees enrollment marketing and retention initiatives, ensures admissions compliance, and supports community partnerships. Prior to joining the Brilla Schools Network team, she worked as an associate director of enrollment at Success Academy. Alexa was born and raised in the Bronx and is proud to have received a strong Catholic education propelling her to attend and graduate from Cornell University. She began her career by joining Teach for America as a bilingual education teacher in a middle school in the Bronx and has been in the education field ever since. She firmly believes in contributing to her community through education.

Stephanie Frias is Enrollment and Outreach Manager. She graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in sociology. Stephanie has built her career in various roles and industries. She was a program coordinator at IESE, a business school of the University of Navarra in Spain. She spent a year teaching in South Korea where she helped to train both Korean and foreign teachers. Stephanie also worked in operations for MAC Cosmetics. She loves cultivating new friendships and enjoying the good things in life: music, family, food, wine, and dancing.

Categories: Feature Story

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