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How One Millennial’s Zip Code Dictated His Destiny

By: Karim Abouelnaga 

Oluwatoyin Ayanfodun was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn, which is considered the murder capital of Brooklyn, alongside Brownsville. In 2011, East New York’s 75th Police Precinct reported the highest murder rate in the city. “Less than 60 percent of the adult population has a high school diploma where I grew up. Many of the systems that are currently in place to support students are actually prohibiting their chances of success,” said Ayanfodun. East New York has significantly higher dropout rates and incidents of violence in their schools.

At the same time, East New York reported the highest murder rate in the city, Ayanfodun, who was 25 years old, launched Tomorrow’s Leaders NYC (TLNYC) to help address one of his community’s largest educational woes – the large number of overage middle school and high school students. In 2014 Advocates for Children reported that more than 50,000 middle school students have been retained at least once, and more than 8,500 students have been left back at least three times. According to the Center for Development & Learning, retained students are two to eleven times more likely to drop out of high school than promoted students.