Keeping Score: How a divided Brooklyn public school campus is trying to unite through sports

Keeping Score: How a divided Brooklyn public school campus is trying to unite through sports

It’s been a pivotal year at the John Jay Educational Campus.

Life inside this hulking red-brick building in Park Slope, Brooklyn is like a thumbnail sketch of New York City’s largely segregated school system as a whole.

Each of its four floors houses a different high school. Millennium Brooklyn, one of the city’s selective schools, has many more white and Asian students than the other three. At Cyberarts Studio Academy, John Jay School for Law, and Park Slope Collegiate, the vast majority of students are Black and brown.

For more than a decade, Millennium students played on sports teams with peers from a sister school in Manhattan, where most students are also white and Asian. The three schools in the building with mostly Black and brown students played together on joint sports teams.

Sometimes, the Millennium Phoenixes and the John Jay Jayhawks faced off against each other – creating the kind of rivalry one might expect between schools in nearby towns – but in the same building, under one roof.

Then, during the pandemic, town hall meetings held over Zoom allowed parents and students from across the building to meet and talk, and adults heard about how many of the teens in the building felt about having separate teams with unequal access to sports. After years of activism by students and parents, administrators decided to merge all the building’s teams into one athletics program.

Some called it an integration.

Players threw away their old jerseys and put on new ones – this time as the John Jay Jaguars. They started rooting for each other.

WNYC partnered with the student journalism nonprofit The Bell to chronicle the effort through the eyes and ears of students on the girls varsity volleyball team and their classmates across the building.

The journey has been bumpy, as students and coaches endeavored to overcome decades of diverse education policies, unite the schools, and win.

Here are their reflections on the season and the broader fight to overcome segregation in New York City public schools.

For more about their experience, listen to WNYC’s new podcast, Keeping Score.

These quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.

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