Daisy Reyes and Emanuel Beato will be the first to tell you that two years ago, as sixth graders, the last thing on their minds was high school. It was enough to navigate the halls of IS 171, the large middle school on the eastern edge of Cypress Hills.
That was then; this is now.
Selecting one of the more than 700 New York City public high schools can be a dizzying challenge even for the most determined students, but not for Daisy and Emanuel. Weeks before the deadline, both had completed their applications, thanks to the Middle School Student Success Center, the fledgling CHLDC program that guides young people through the ins and outs of not simply selecting a high school, but finding the best one for them.
“I researched a lot,” said Daisy, 14. “I found out the graduation rates the schools had and how many students were in the schools. I used the center every day and they helped me with the process-they help me understand.”
“It was hard because you have to find out about schools you don’t know a lot about,” Emanuel, 12, said. “That’s why I would come by and I’d go through the list of schools and they would show me schools that I might be interested in and then I’d get their opinions about the schools. They help you pick the right school-not just any school.”
And having students at IS 171, most of whom come from low income families, avoid that “any school” syndrome is precisely what the center is trying to do. High school is too important to leave to chance, said Center Director Parastoo Massoumi, and picking the right one can mean the difference between graduating and going to college, or struggling academically and worse. “It’s not just about us translating the process for our students,” she said. “It’s about supporting our students to go to schools that are going to help them be college ready, and changing the culture around what it means to go to a good school and why that’s important for our students’ future.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Massoumi and the center’s three staffers (one of whom works with students at JHS 302). The center launched in early September but already there have been parent workshops, sessions in classrooms, and lots of thinking among the staff about the future. The plan is for the students themselves to counsel and advise fellow students through the process–a model used successfully in CHLDC college access programming at Franklin Lane High School.
All of that, however, is in the future. For now, Daisy and Emanuel, given their newly found expertise, have some advice for sixth and seventh graders: Start the process early, do your research, and, most of all, take advantage of the Middle School Student Success Center. “They should come here because they really help you find the right school for you to get a good education,” Emanuel said. “They really try to help you find the schools that have a really good education and they make you think about what you want from that school.”
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the New York City Department of Education, the New York State Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation for their support of the Middle School Student Success Center.