IMANI is a community-based non-profit organization that offers educational support programs to promote high achievement for all students in the Montclair Public Schools.
Our primary mission is to close the achievement gap by collaborating with parents, teachers, and school administrators to provide focused academic and social support for students of color.
In addition, we seek to create a culture of academic success that encourages students and their families to embrace the goal of a 4-year college education.
We also work to cultivate a spirit of empathy and engagement that empowers our future leaders to commit themselves to community involvement.
IMANI traces its roots to 1999 when research data revealed that the majority of white students in the Montclair school district out-scored a large percentage of minority students on standardized tests and out-paced them on admission to top-tier colleges. To address these inequities, the Superintendent of Montclair Public Schools asked a group of parents and community leaders to brainstorm ideas for eliminating the minority student achievement gap.
Helping minority students succeed in advanced level classes
Recognizing the need to provide minority students with the same kind of support available to more affluent white students, IMANI started out by offering SAT prep classes led by professional tutors and small study groups taught by certified teachers. The academic support provided through these programs not only helped improve the performance of minority students and lessened their sense of isolation in advanced level classes, but also increased their involvement in other school activities.
Supporting the transition from middle school to high school
In 2001, IMANI collaborated with Montclair High School to introduce summer programs in Literature and Algebra for incoming freshmen. These programs helped prepare students for the rigorous ninth grade curriculum by strengthening their reading and math skills. The summer enrichment program also included a mentoring component to help students navigate the challenging transition to high school.
Narrowing the college admissions gap
Despite steady improvement in minority student achievement, many students of color failed to keep pace with white students on admission to selective four-year colleges. While study groups and SAT prep made college attendance possible for all Montclair High School students, minority students and their families were often frustrated and confused by the college application process.
With major funding from the Bestfoods Educational Foundation, the IMANI College Advocacy Center opened its doors in 2004. This supportive and welcoming community-based resource provides individualized counseling to assist Montclair High School students with all aspects of the college application process. As part of this program, the College Advocacy Center launched an annual college admissions workshop in partnership with Wesleyan University and other colleges that have expressed a commitment to increasing their minority enrollment.
IMANI’s dedication to meeting the needs of underserved students in Montclair has been recognized in the community in a variety of ways, such as in 2005 with the Walter A. Lack Distinguished Volunteer Award, presented by the Montclair Board of Education for “outstanding and consistent service and support to the public schools.” IMANI’s educational support programs have also received national recognition. In 2013, The College Board honored IMANI with the Dr. Asa G. Hilliard Model of Excellence Award, which is given to organizations that have encouraged African American students to strive for academic success.
Improving performance in elementary and middle school
As IMANI broadened its focus on college readiness, it became clear that efforts to narrow the achievement gap needed to start much earlier. In 2004, a Mini-IMANI program was introduced at the elementary school level to improve reading and writing skills through IMANI Reading Circles, child-driven, parent-supported book clubs.
During the 2006-2007 school year, IMANI launched a middle school program dedicated to improving performance of adolescent boys of color. This initiative was made possible by a generous grant from the Schumann Foundation of New Jersey. A campaign is now underway to fund a new coed Middle IMANI program to help middle school students master key academic concepts and gain practical knowledge, while also addressing social and emotional issues. Please show your support for this program by donating now.
Our goals for the future
IMANI programs are currently offered to Montclair public school students in Grades K-12. As we continue to build strong partnerships with local and national organizations as well as colleges and universities around the country, we hope to expand our services and provide a model to help improve student performance in Montclair and beyond.