Half of New York City’s residents live in near poverty, according to a study from 2014. A large percentage of those who find it difficult to get by, are people of color–Asian, African American and Latino groups, whose socioeconomic status is a result of generational gaps in wealth, and unlikely to change without assistance. For this very reason, The TEAK Fellowship was created.

For 18 years, TEAK has partnered with caring individuals in New York City to transform the lives of low-income students from a severely limited to a most promising future, through guidance, mentorship and internship programs. Impressively, 100 percent of the organization’s participants are accepted to top high schools and attend a 4 year college afterward; on average, more than a quarter of them are accepted into Ivy League institutions each year.

The young man and woman who inspired TEAK were like its participants: young and intelligent, yet their lives were ended due to violence, and what they could’ve have achieved is forever unknown. Yet for the woman who knew them, Justine Stamen Arrillaga (founder and former director of TEAK Fellowship), their memories would not be in vain.

In 1998, TEAK began with its first class of 22 seventh graders. Today, the organization has 177 current fellows and another 250 alumni, who’ve entered careers in public service, engineering, finance and law, among other things.

The amazing thing about TEAK is that it’s not solely focused on students getting an education–the program works to ensure that its fellows receive the best education possible, and are fully prepared to be their most successful. In meeting this goal, TEAK encourages world travel, community service, and professional development throughout and beyond college.

As an organization, TEAK is focused on equity. In its mission, the organization makes it clear that income should not determine someone’s opportunities in education, and affirms that with the right tools and support, children of every background can be successful.

Check out the video below, and TEAK’s website  to learn more about its history and the incredible work it’s doing to uplift entire communities, one child at a time.

TEAK Fellowship from Hyebin Lee on Vimeo.