Mission & History


BELL exists to transform the academic achievements, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children living in under-resourced communities.

Because we believe in the tremendous potential of all children to excel, we recognize them as scholars.

All children need opportunities to learn in order to fulfill their potential in school and in life.  We work to create high-quality learning opportunities for the children who need them most so that they, too, can develop the skills, interests, and determination to excel.  Research shows that a lack of learning opportunities outside of school – and in particular, a lack of summer learning opportunities – causes up to 2/3 of the academic achievement gap between children from low-income communities and their higher-income peers. 

We build educational equality by mobilizing schools and communities and expanding learning time beyond the traditional school day and school year.  By bringing the classroom into the community, and the community into the classroom, we aim to redefine how, where, and when learning occurs so that every child has the opportunity to learn and engage and excel.

We deliver evidence-based programs, and train others so that they can apply what works in their community.  Our approach is based on strong partnerships with schools and nonprofits, through which we create a rich learning experience that blends rigorous academic instruction, mentorship, hands-on enrichment activities, and community engagement. 

In BELL programs, scholars experience success, gain self-confidence, and become more prepared and motivated to succeed in the classroom.  Our program and partnership models also help parents become more engaged in their child's education.  Scholar success and parent engagement leads to increased engagement in learning and school attendance, higher grades and test scores, and increased graduation rates. 

Our programs serve scholars from pre-Kindergartden to 8th grade throughout the United States.

We are a national organization, born in Boston.  You can learn more about each of our communities here.


In the early 1990's, a group of Black and Latino students at Harvard Law School began a community service project at a local public school. Between pick-up basketball games, the volunteers realized many of the children could not read, write, or perform math operations at grade-level proficiency. Inspired by the opportunity to transform children's lives, the group, led by Earl Martin Phalen and Andrew L. Carter, began working with parents, teachers, and experts at Harvard University to create an educational after school program that integrated best practices in academic tutoring, enrichment, and evaluation.

"BELL" was incorporated in 1992 and named in honor of Professor Derrick A. Bell, Jr., Harvard Law’s first Black tenured professor.  With guidance and support from BELL board chair emeritus Professor Charles J. Ogletree and former board member Dr. Robert S. Peterkin, the BELL After School program reached 20 students in its first year of operation.  We have since developed an award-winning summer learning model and grown to serve thousands of scholars annually in communities across the country.