As part of GOAL's continuing commitment to teaching students about the importance of healthy living, GOAL holds an annual Healthy Lifestyles Fair which brings together students, parents, community members, and volunteers to cook healthy foods and celebrate the importance of healthy living. The link below is to an article printed in the Wall St. Journal Online featuring GOAL and our the healthy lifestyles program

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Libations can have many benefits. Indeed, great things can sometimes happen in bars. It happened about three years ago for Jeff Kaplan, the head trader in New York City at a hedge fund called Deerfield Partners. Kaplan was having a wee bit of liquid refreshment with friends. But he was puzzled. A fifth grader was failing in an East Harlem public school. The child needed special help, a public school teacher explained. But apparently no one could do anything. That's until the 38-year old Kaplan - along with trading executive Lisa Kelly of SG Cowen and the teacher offered a rescue plan.

"We were having this conversation in the bar with the teacher, Halli Moskowitz, when she told us her student was going to be left back because she didn't have the money for summer school," Kaplan recalled. "So, I said I'll pay for her to go. And Lisa also said, I'll pay for her to go.' And before we knew it, we were going to sponsor 15 kids."

From those pledges that night in a bar came the beginning of GOAL (Giving Open Access to Learning). The mission of GOAL is to provide educational and motivational programs "to under-served young people exhibiting below average academic performance." These youngsters are typically nominated by their teachers.

Kaplan and Kelly decided to expand. They wanted more children who were failing to have the opportunity to receive intensive computer assisted training at various private institutes. These institutes are easily available for the children of the well-heeled, but are beyond the means of the children of the East Harlems.

"For the first 15 kids, I negotiated a good rate with a computerized tutoring center and all 15 ended up graduating," says Kaplan, the executive director of GOAL. "So the next fall came and we decided this is a pretty good idea. We should help more kids."

Advisory Board
GOAL, a tax-exempt organization, now has some 80 students, mostly from PS 171 in East Harlem. But that's not nearly enough for Kaplan, a man with a dream. His dream is to offer places for several thousand students. "I want us to expand into the South Bronx," Kaplan says. "I want us to go into Brooklyn." In fact, GOAL now has an office in Brooklyn, a fulltime director, Saira Bieler, and a strategic advisory board.

Kaplan will need much help from the Wall Street community - cash, tickets to sporting events as special incentives for young people who suddenly realize that learning has many advantages. GOAL has held various fundraisers for Wall Street professionals. These events have brought in some $400,000.

The grassroots organization uses both carrots and sticks to encourage children of poor families to turn around their academic lives. For example, children who diligently studied recently had a chance to win a raffle. The top prize was four great tickets to a Knicks game. These are the rewards for good study habits. GOAL also has scholarships for a disk jockey academy called Scratch.

But always the bottom line for all GOAL students is they must attend the classes devoted to improving the vital skills of reading and math.

The stick is this: Students who miss classes are out of the program, a program in which there are far more candidates than places.

But besides fancy Knicks tickets, students who have stuck with the private program have the opportunity to obtain something more valuable than tickets to games. It is the magic carpet to any time or place. It is the empowering joy of reading, the lack of which has enslaved millions of men and women over the ages.

"We have fourth grade students who were reading at a second grade level. And they're with us for six months and all a sudden they're reading at their grade level," says Kaplan.

Why does GOAL succeed with kids who were previously failing? Kaplan's theory is that in public schools some students are quickly overwhelmed by the classroom environment. "They lose hope and then they stop doing homework," he says. By contrast, in GOAL's private institutes, "they see immediate results and the turnaround begins."

E-mail Jeff Kaplan: jeff@goal4kids.org

Gregory Bresiger