As dozens of seniors gathered in the fourth-floor corridor of Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning High School, each holding sealed envelopes containing college applications, Jenny Rodriguez, the school’s assistant principal, climbed onto a chair, as if to make a toast.
“In some places this is such a rare step," she said. "In some places this is such a common step that it is overlooked,” a reference to the wide spectrum of college application statistics at New York City schools. “Here, it is just the first step.”
Following a custom that is emerging at high schools across the city, more than 70 students walked the several blocks from the school to the post office on West 180th Street between St. Nicholas and Audubon Avenues to mail their application envelopes, stuffed with test scores, recommendation letters and essays.
Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott led the procession with Brett Kimmel, the school’s principal, as parents, neighbors and fellow students held signs and cheered. Mr. Walcott — who, like the students, marched wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with the school’s acronym, Wheels — said that while he had witnessed similar events at other city schools, he had not seen such a degree of neighborhood involvement.
"They really made a point of having it not just within the school, but making sure they send a message out to the community at large," Mr. Walcott said, "and that to me is extremely powerful."
Ms. Rodriguez and Jessica Perilman, the college counselor at the school, organized the event, hoping to increase the number of applications by making the experience feel more like a basketball pep rally and less like a chore.
Of the 76 seniors at the school, all have applied to at least one college or university.
Gregory David, 17, a senior from the Bronx, applied to 10 city and state universities, which he said was easier given that he had an earlier start.
“We worked on our personal essays over the summer,” he said. “By October, we were ready.”