DMI Blog

Maureen Lane

Helping Low-income Students Realize their Potential Beyond High School

In our ongoing effort to bring poor and low-income students to college, WRI's High School Coordinator and other Hunter students, and alums made presentations on access to higher education to several classes of high school students at The High School of Violin and Dance (HSVD) in the Bronx, NY. Principal Lippold responded to WRI's outreach and invited us to come uptown.

As the school website declares, "Our mission is to prepare a diverse group of students to be intelligent, caring leaders in society. At HSVD, parents, students, and staff work together to provide opportunities that meet the needs of every learner. We offer a college preparatory program that values higher-level thinking and artistic expression."

HSVD's history is encouraging. HSVD opened in the Bronx in September 2002 as one of 12 new smaller high schools, all part of the restructuring plan for the Morris HS building as the phase out of the old Morris was concluded. Before restructuring, Morris High School was considered a failing school.

In September 2003 the Gates Foundation joined the New York City Department of Education in supporting 67 small high schools citywide. "By transforming large failing schools like Morris High School into small learning communities and creating new high schools that offer personalized learning and rigorous coursework, this ambitious effort will provide students the high-quality education they need to succeed in the 21st century. The city is leveraging the foundation's investment to open a total of 200 new small schools throughout the five boroughs, including 60 in the fall of 2004."

HSVD is housed in a renovated building with good space for teaching and learning. The students we met were engaged and eager to go to college. So then why is WRI needed there?

Ana Cuaz summed it up nicely yesterday, "Placing students in pretty buildings, although conducive to their learning experience in the classroom, does not substitute the encouragement and support that is crucial to helping them realize their potential beyond high school." Involved and dedicated staff and teachers surround HSVD students but not all high schools are equipped that way. Applying for college, understanding the college environment and succeeding in academia can be baffling to those of us who are left alone as a 12th grader.

Ana reflected on her experiences with students yesterday, "When I attended the HS for Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, we took classes in a trailer park across the street while classrooms were being renovated. The renovations were important of course in creating an environment for students that was safe, clean, and comfortable, but the resources available for students was lacking. I wasn't told about opportunities to go to college. I wasn't even encouraged to apply. In fact, my counselor told me, I would never get accepted to Hunter College. There needs to be a balance, and an equal emphasis placed on all of the different factors students experience in HS because no matter how unimportant each may seem, they all contribute to the experience as a whole. Too much emphasis placed on any one factor will surely result in the failure of another."

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Posted at 7:07 AM, Dec 07, 2006 in Economic Opportunity | Education | Welfare
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