Meet the Philanthropists Funding East Harlem’s $30 Million Education Center

East Harlem is getting a new $30 million community education center thanks to a local tutorial program and a few local philanthropists.

The East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) broke ground on the state-of-the-art East Harlem Education Center facility that will bring much needed resources to the community. With the goal of dramatically increasing college graduation rates among East Harlem youth, the new center will feature STEM and Robotics labs, a gym and other wellness facilities, and music and performance spaces.

New York City philanthropists James and Marilyn Simons made the largest single contribution to the East Harlem Education Center. The couple made a $15 million investment to the $45 million Campaign for East Harlem. This challenge grant was one of the largest K-12 public education grants in New York history. Campaign funds are also going toward after-school programs, public charter schools, and to expand a College Scholars program. Other individual donors, including Joan Solotar, Lili Lynton and Cecily Carson, kicked into the effort as well.

So who exactly are all these donors and what else are they up to around the city these days?

With a net worth of around $12 billion, James Simons is the founder of Renaissance Technologies Corporation. A lifelong scientist, Simons focuses most of his philanthropy on science and is also a strong supporter of STEM education.

Related: Read IP’s Profile of James Simons

His wife Marilyn is President of the Simons Foundation, which focuses giving on education and research in mathematics, physical and life sciences, and autism research. She serves on the Board of Trustees at EHTP, and James and Marilyn have been long-term supporters of EHTP and education in the East Harlem area.

Read More: Why Is James Simons Giving Big to This Harlem Tutoring Program?

“The mission of EHTP aligns with my long-standing commitment to advancing educational opportunities,” commented James Simons, also the founder of Math for America, in a press release.

But what about these other philanthropists who have flown beneath the radar?

Joan Solotar is a Senior Managing Director and Head of the External Relations & Strategy Group at Blackstone, a New York City-based multinational private equity, investment banking, asset management and financial services corporation. Outside of the office, Solotar serves as the chair of board for EHTP.

Lili Lynton is the owner of Dinex Corp., which operates about a dozen restaurants, most of them in New York. This Harvard Business School grad has also worked with the New York City Investment Fund as a senior manager and as a Wall Street financial analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein and Lehman Brothers. Lynton serves as vice chair of EHTP’s board of trustees.

And last but not least is Cecily Carson. This native New Yorker is President of the Carson Family Charitable Trust and serves on the Founding Leadership Council of the Robin Hood Foundation. She’s deeply entrenched in local philanthropy and has secured board and trustee positions at a variety of organizations around town.

All of these philanthropists come from diverse backgrounds, but there’s a common thread. For the most part, they call New York City home, and they're collaborating because of the overwhelming need in East Harlem.

Youth in East Harlem face more education challenges than the average students. Only 13 percent of students here graduate from college with a two or four year degree. EHTP has a proven track record of success, which captured the attention of these education-focused donors. Of the students that have participated in EHTP’s after-school programs, 98 percent of 2014 high school seniors graduated on time and over 80 percent of college scholars are still in college and on track to graduate.