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Social Capitalists: BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

Dorchester, MA
Year founded: 1992
CEO: Earl Martin Phalen

BELL believes all children can excel. To this end, BELL pursues a mission to increase the academic achievements, self-esteem and life opportunities of children living in low-income, urban areas. Through its summer and after-school programs, BELL is transforming chronic trends of academic under-performance into a new paradigm of excellence for children, schools, and communities.

BELL programs employ the most effective teaching and learning strategies to ensure children succeed. Children, who BELL refers to as “scholars,” benefit from targeted academic instruction in literacy and math, high-quality skills-based curricula, dedicated teachers and highly trained tutors, mentorship from young adult role models, support for parental involvement, and rigorous evaluation to ensure scholar success.

In BELL programs, scholars achieve significant academic gains. Last year, for example, 100% of children entering BELL at the “failing” level in reading advanced to a higher academic performance category, for the sixth consecutive year. More than 80% of BELL scholars achieved “proficient” or “advanced” levels in core academic skills, compared to 30% of their peers. An external evaluation of BELL Summer, conducted by researchers from the Urban Institute and Mathematica Policy Research, found firm evidence of the program’s ability to increase children’s reading scores.

Now, BELL is embarking on a five-year strategic plan to transform the lives of thousands of additional scholars:


BELL will work to ensure that 100% of its scholars achieve proficiency in core academic and social skills, and receive the continued support and resources they need to excel. For example, BELL will continue strengthening its curricula, assessment and evaluation activities, and staff training programs. BELL will also invest in information technology in order to increase operating efficiency, provide data-driven instruction tailored to each scholar’s individual learning needs, and facilitate a rigorous metrics system used to evaluate and strengthen program quality.


BELL will replicate its systems and processes in order to expand in current service regions, into nearby school districts, and into new regions. BELL is considering partnerships with school districts and private funders which would enable its expansion into Hartford, CT, Newark, NJ, Miami, Fl and/or Chicago, IL, over the next several years.


BELL will pursue strategic collaborations with youth-serving organizations to deepen and sustain BELL’s impact on children’s lives. For example, BELL is exploring partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club as a potential strategy for leveraging existing infrastructure and relationships required to deliver educational programs to the children who need them most.


BELL will work with key partners, such as the Center for Summer Learning and New Profit Inc., to strengthen public education by demonstrating measurable impact and best practices to the national educational field and leveraging outcomes to inform local, state and national policy. Most recently, BELL’s consistent, significant impact on children’s academic achievements during the summer inspired Senator Barack Obama to create new legislation, called the STEP UP Act. The law, which references BELL Summer as a national model of excellence, would create sustainable public funding streams to support summer learning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of children.

To learn more about BELL, please our web site or contact Lester Strong at

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