Dr. Elaine Ruiz López
Chief Executive Officer & Founder
As an urban educator for more than twenty years, I was witness to a vicious cycle of poverty, abysmal academic achievement, and alarming high school dropout rates for Latino and African-American students in New York City’s public schools. In 2003, the New York City graduation rate for African-American and Latino students was less than 54%, and the social and economic future for our youth was bleak.
This cycle motivated me to envision and develop a community grown high school that offered rigorous college preparation and held its students to the highest academic standards. Driven by my desire to provide a viable option for a world class education for families throughout the Bronx, I founded the International Leadership Charter High School in 2005 after several years of intense planning and preparation.
My experiences in the neighborhoods in which I was raised and as a community organizer also contributed to the birth of my vision and my journey to create ILCHS. A first generation Puerto Rican, I was born and raised in the South Bronx during the peak of the Civil Rights movement, where I experienced first-hand the many challenges faced by working class and ethnic families, such as racial and economic inequalities, poor educational opportunities, and inadequate healthcare. My childhood was also marked by the assassination of such leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy.
More locally, I experienced the epidemic of “slumlords” burning down neighborhood buildings for insurance money, including two of the buildings I lived in with my parents and siblings. The Bronx was literally burning, as famously documented in several books and movies in the 80’s such as Paul Newman's Fort Apache. As an adult, I joined other community activists in protest of this stereotypically racist movie.
Throughout my life, however, education has remained my highest priority both as a teacher and as a lifelong learner. After graduating from high school, I enrolled in CUNY, attending the City College of New York until earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a concentration in Bilingual Education. While finishing my degree at CCNY, I taught in the South Bronx. I also earned a Master of Science in Special Education from Bank Street College of Education and a Doctoral Degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
I emphatically do not believe that being in a disadvantaged community is an excuse for a school to underserve its students, and the hard work and dedication of our teachers, students, and families have confirmed this core belief. It is an honor and privilege to serve as the leader of this tremendous school community and to dedicate my life to creating opportunities for our students to become the leaders of tomorrow and to discover the world around them.