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Transforming Lives. Lifting Communities.

Our Mission


The TEAK Fellowship believes that motivation and potential, not economic circumstances, should determine a student’s future. TEAK unlocks access to an outstanding education and transformative experiences for exceptional NYC students, who use these opportunities to change their lives and the world around them.


TEAK is a free program that helps talented students from low-income families achieve their potential. Through intensive after school and summer classes, TEAK prepares middle school students to get into the nation’s most selective high schools and colleges. TEAK’s robust support system ensures that students thrive in their independent (day and boarding) high schools and graduate from college, ready to pursue their professional goals and positively impact the world.




Our History


In 1998, Justine Stamen Arrillaga founded The TEAK Fellowship in memory of DeWitt White (1981 – 1997) and Teak Dyer (1970 – 1988), two people close to her whose lives were tragically cut short. Wanting to provide other young people with the opportunity for a brighter future, she created a program to help aspiring students use education to overcome economic hardships and achieve their potential.


Starting with a pioneer class of 22 seventh-grade students, Justine directed TEAK and managed its growth for eight years. In 2005, Lynn D. Sorensen succeeded Justine as TEAK’s Executive Director; in 2015, John F. Green became TEAK’s third Executive Director. Dr. Denise Brown-Allen began her tenure as Executive Director in July 2021, bringing 25 years of educational experience to TEAK. Throughout her career in education, she has been committed to gender and racial equity in education, a leader in the development and implementation of strategic plans, a champion for service learning opportunities, a proponent of the thoughtful integration of technology into the classroom, and ever seeking excellence in her professional pursuits and new opportunities for learning.


Starting with the first cohort, 100 percent of TEAK Fellows have been accepted into top independent, public, and parochial high schools. Every single Fellow has matriculated to 4-year colleges; of these, 89 percent have entered top-tier schools, including an average of 30 percent into the Ivy League each year. Of the students who have completed the Fellowship, 89 percent are college graduates and leaders in multiple professions.


While continuing its core work of preparing students to apply to and succeed at top high schools and colleges, TEAK has expanded its programming over the course of its history to better achieve and build upon these goals. In 2008, TEAK celebrated its first class of college graduates. In 2012, TEAK shifted the program’s entry point from 7th grade to 6th grade to increase student preparation prior to entering their rigorous high schools. In 2019, after a successful capital campaign, Glancing Back>Looking Forward, TEAK expanded its program by 50%, increasing enrollment from 30 students per cohort to 45 Fellows. Today, TEAK remains an enduring yet innovative program, opening doors to excellent educational opportunities and preparing students to succeed and lead in their schools, professions, and communities.


Teak and DeWitt