Co-Founder and Youth Development Director, South Bronx Community Charter High School
Natalie Ferrell’s commitment to social awareness, which took root while at Duchesne, has been the guiding force in her dynamic career in education and international development. While in high school at Duchesne, Natalie participated in a service learning program through Amigos de las Americas, in which groups of students spent a summer in a Latin American country, living with host families and volunteering in the community. As an undergraduate at Tulane, Natalie double majored in International Development and Latin American Studies. After studying abroad in Argentina, she had just returned to New Orleans for her senior year when Hurricane Katrina hit. The devastation and impact of the storm opened her eyes to inequities in our own country, which motivated her to apply to Teach for America right out of college. She was placed in a bilingual middle school in Washington Heights, Manhattan to work with recently arrived immigrants. To address the complex challenges her students faced, Natalie started an advisory program to focus on social, emotional, and mental health support, and discovered her passion for adolescent development. She earned a Master’s in Education while teaching full-time, and while she loved teaching, she wanted to further explore her passions outside of the classroom.
Ready for her next step, Natalie applied for the Peace Corps, a life-long goal, and was serendipitously placed in the Dominican Republic, which was where most of her students had been from. Through the Peace Corps, Natalie earned a Masters’ in International Health and Development from Tulane before moving to the DR in 2010. There she worked on a municipal study on commercial sexual exploitation of youth, as part of a coalition of agencies working together to combat sex tourism. Working alongside a children’s rights nonprofit founded by a nun, Natalie was impressed by the leader’s commitment to building an organization grounded in community. While in the DR, Natalie met her husband and they were married, and when her time in the Peace Corps ended, she stayed to work on education consulting projects until 2013.
Upon returning to the U.S., Natalie received a fellowship with the Expanded Success Initiative in New York, as one of nine people (and only two females) from across industries, working together to design a new school model for young men and women of color. In 2016, Natalie co-founded South Bronx Community Charter High School, a competency-based learning environment focusing on the student as a whole, affirming students’ identities, and emphasizing social emotional skills critical for life success. Building on her early experiences at Duchesne, Natalie incorporated social awareness and social justice into the curriculum, offering the students opportunities to gain real-life experiences such as internships and an international service learning trip. South Bronx Community celebrated their first graduating class in 2020, and today Natalie oversees social and emotional learning and supports youth development professionals, as she plans for the future of the growing school.