Software HS Principal Invests in School Culture

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The Academy for Software Engineering is wrapping up its first year as the only high school in the city devoted to computer science. The principal told WNYC its dual mission -- to train workers for the high-tech industry and to engage students so they graduate -- places a premium on private-sector partnerships.

“We're going to need to rely on more people if we really want this school to be what we think it can be," said Seung Yu, the school’s principal. Industry mentors and funding for after-school programs are key reasons the first year has gone well, he said.

Freshmen take a basic coding class in their first year, along with a data functions course which blends math and computer science. But for Yu much of his focus has been on establishing a school culture. He gives student-of-the-month awards, based on both academics and character. A student this year won an award for “Most Mature.” Another received the award for “All Around Nice Guy.”

“Kids enjoy being here,” he said. The attendance rate has hovered above 94 percent.

Next year, the city will open a second computer science high school, the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (B.A.S.E.), and launch pilot programs on a smaller scale in 20 middle and high schools that will allow students to take computer science classes on topics including coding, web design or 3-D printing.

And word must be spreading about AFSE. There were 1,400 applications for next year's freshman class of 125 students. Not a surprising showing to Gio Rascigno, a current freshman.

“The world is pretty much dictated by computers and electronics, and you shouldn’t be ignorant about something that controls the world pretty much,” he said.

For more on the school, and lessons learned from year one, listen to WNYC's New Tech City segment above. Just click play.