Harlem Kids Get Hooked On Success At New Hit The Books After-School Program

In the midst of a pandemic, local non-profit Hit the Books (“HTB”), a sports-based youth development program, announced its inaugural opening in Harlem.

Targeting youth ages 7 – 12 years old, Hit The Books incorporates mixed martial arts as the ‘hook,’ while the program itself will aim to improve educational equality and the overall wellbeing of local students through tutoring and mentorship.


The after-school program takes place weekdays from 2:30 – 6 pm at its flagship state of the art, 5,000 square foot facility located at 340 Saint Nicholas Avenue, Harlem, NY.

The students participating in the program come from a diverse array of public and charter schools in the area. Compliant with NYC COVID regulations, the organization can serve up to 15 students per session and aims to serve up to 60 youth per day, post-pandemic.

While inequality has always been a problem, programs like Hit the Books are more important now than ever.

Students in the Harlem area are disproportionately affected academically and psychologically by the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and need programs like Hit The Books to make up for a lost time.

The program brings additional educational resources to youth in Harlem to combat the learning loss and food insecurity that disadvantaged students are facing.

“Hit the Books takes a holistic approach to working with our young people– supporting youth academically with math and reading tutoring; physically with safe, socially-distant Mixed Martial Arts classes; and developmentally– sharing what might be most important at this time–social and emotional development,” said Kazz Alexander Pinkard, Executive Director at Hit the Books. Kazz is a native New Yorker who has been working with children for two decades and is also a Harlem resident. “Our mission is to work with the whole child. We are developing individuals who are a part of a larger community, and who see themselves as both leaders and students.”

Pending approval from the city, Hit The Books will partner with local high school mentors from First Workings and the Boys Club of NY to facilitate in-person tutoring and mentorship to ensure the kids are receiving guidance from teens in the area.

Additionally, the organization is collaborating with Family Time Meals to provide at least one meal a day that includes a nutritious snack and dinner.

Milan, who is a second-grader at Success Academy shared that he is excited “to get better at math and reading, and [wants] to meet my tutor who is hopefully good at music and chess!” Hit the Books students are equally excited about improving academically as they are about the Mixed Martial Arts classes.

“Hit the Books is the first organized sports program my son has participated in. After his first class, he ran out to me saying It was fun! It was really fun!’” said Lesley Mbaye, who has a second-grader participating in the after school program. “When schools shut down, it became more than ‘fun’- it became his lifeline for socializing and for getting out his pent-up energy. Hit The Books  has been an amazing bright spot for me and my son in this difficult year.”

Hit the Books (“HTB”) is a Harlem based non-profit for youth that aims to bring additional educational resources to underserved communities through a sports-based development approach, with tutoring and mentorship at its core and mixed martial arts as the ‘hook’.

HTB serves as an after-school community center to facilitate development and help make any and every goal achievable for its students.

Registration is open to local families of students in grades 2-5, who can apply by visiting here.

The staff has combined experience of 30 years in mixed martial arts and education. For more information please visit: https://www.hitthebooksnyc.org/ or follow HTB on Instagram.

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