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Voices From the High School Fair

Monday, September 26, 2011 - 12:30 PM

As the doors opened at 10 a.m Saturday for the city’s annual high school fair, parents and students were lined up outside Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, waiting anxiously for the chance to talk with representatives from New York's high schools.

Inside, volunteers ushered parents and students into elevators and up the stairwells, urging everyone to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, ’cause it’s hot in there.”

While parents were concerned about how a school would help their children get into a good college and provide a good education, many of the students were more concerned about that a school have opportunities for extracurricular activities: good sports teams, creative arts programs and special-interest clubs.

SchoolBook talked to a few eighth graders and their parents about what they are looking for in a high school and how they are preparing for the application process.

Sienna Nard of Manhattan, who attends Junior High School 54 Booker T. Washington in Manhattan:

“I’m looking for a school that can offer me a good education and has a good music program. I play the double bass and want to be in the orchestra.”

Her mother, Thelia Lowe: “I just want her to be focused. I’ve been going on tours of schools, going to seminars on how to get through the high school application process, PTA meetings, talking to the parent coordinator. It’s going to be a busy year and I’m trying to make sure she’s involved in this process. So I’m making sure I’m taking her on tours, too.”

Stephon Grose of the Northeast Bronx, who attends the Equality Charter School in Co-op City, Bronx:

“I want a small high school that specializes in what I want to be, which is a lawyer or a technical engineer. I’d like it to be affiliated with a university, preferably so that gave me college credit.”

“I’m most excited about growing up, getting older, and getting out of my mom’s house.”

Michael Locascio of Staten Island, who attends Intermediate School 289 in Manhattan:

“I want to go to a school with good graduation rates and a good football team.”

The schools he is interested in: CSI High School for International Studies, Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School and Susan E. Wagner High School.

His mother, Wiandy Santiago: He’s always gone to school in Manhattan, but we’re focusing mainly on schools in Staten Island, which is where we live. I want him to be prepared to go to college.”

On applying to high schools: “It’s like a whole process. You go to the fairs, get all the materials, study hard, take the test, and then hope that you pass.”

Sierra Tejada of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, who attends J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler in Brooklyn:

“I want a school that has a good vocal music program. I want to be a singer. I sing soprano in my school’s chorus.”

Schools she is interested in: Brooklyn Technical High School and Fiorella H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts.

Her mother, Michelle Tejada: “We’ve been preparing for the specialized high school test, going to open houses, asked other children who went to the schools she’s interested in."

“My biggest concern is that I don’t want to send her somewhere where she’ll have more problems than success. It’s going to be a whole new experience with new people and more opportunities. I want her to be ready.”

Elyana Feliciano of Highland Park, Queens, who attends I.S. 77 in Ridgewood, Queens:

"I’m interested in culinary arts, really anything to do with arts, period. I like drawing, but I also would like to design cakes.”

Her mother, Lynette Feliciano: “Kids want to do anything to try not to get bored at school. But I’m looking for schools that are going to help her get into a good college. And a school that’s going to keep her moving forward with school, even after she graduates high school.”

On applying to high schools: “Honestly, we started a little late. She’s in eighth grade, and I’m concerned that we’re building knowledge when we should be prepared to apply to the schools.”

JoVahn Fuller of Laurelton, Queens, who attends P.S./I.S. 208 in Bellerose, Queens:

“I want a school with good programs for math or science and good football and basketball teams where I could get a scholarship to go to college.”

Janelle Bradley of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, who attends Summit Academy Charter School in Red Hook, Brooklyn:

“I want a school that specializes in leadership programs, science and performing arts. I think a high school should have lots of options so when I get to college I can know what I want to do.”

“I want to be an author or a brain surgeon.”

“I really liked Millennium Brooklyn High School because they have a lot of expectations and they are strict on them because they are looking out for our future.”

Her mother, Angela Garcia: “We’ve been researching, trying to get as many pamphlets and go to as many open houses as we can. We want to get all the foundational groundwork done before we totally decide on a school.”

Dwaynne Coley II of Rosedale, Queens, who attends J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler in Bushwick, Brooklyn:

“I want a school with lots of extracurricular activities, and A.P. classes where I can get college credit. I’m interested in law and business.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer since I was a really little. I want to be a prosecutor.”

“I want teachers who actually try to motivate us instead of just being boring.”

Connor Walsh of Queens, who attends P.S. 122 Mamie Fay in Ditmars, Queens:

“I’ve been looking at programs with extracurricular activities and A.P. English and math courses. I speak a little bit of Spanish, so I’d like a good language program. I’m interested in finding a cooking club or a mock trial and debate team. I’ve played the clarinet since fourth grade, but we haven’t started band practice this year because everyone’s working on trying to apply to high school.”

Schools he’s interested in: “Bard High School Early College. I like writing fiction and Bard is a college prep high school that’s big on good writing programs.”

His mother, Christine Walsh: “We’ve been doing review for the math and writing samples for the applications. His middle school has been really good about holding seminars and giving us the information we need. We really haven’t been stressing because the school keeps us up to speed.”

Sunday's fair also drew crowds:

Susan Maharis, 55, from Howard Beach, Queens, who was with her daughter Katie Maharis, 13.

“I think it’s wonderful because otherwise there’s no way to cover all the schools that are available in New York City,” Ms. Maharis said. “At least you can narrow it down by coming here and talking to a few people first.”

“It’s a bit overwhelming because it’s large,” said Ms. Maharis, who added that she waited in a line that snaked around the corner of the building. “I don’t know any other way to do it, to accomplish all this.”

Katie said she wants to be a vet and was interested in attending Queens Metropolitan High School.

“It’s a bit much, but it's definitely helping,” Katie said. “I just want to make the perfect choice for high school.”

Josephine Ciaramella, 37, of Ozone Park, Queens, brought her two sons, Marco, 14, and Peter, 12:

“It's very exciting, I can’t believe these years flew by,” Ms. Ciaramella said. “It's very nice that they are doing this, to see all the schools, what they teach and what they are looking for.

“He’s looking forward to looking at what he wants,” Ms. Ciaramella said. “He’s a dancer, so he’s looking for something for his academics and his dancing.

“I think this is great for them,” Ms. Ciaramella said. “It’s a great opportunity so that they can see what they want to do.”

“It's very overwhelming for me and very exciting for them,” said Ms. Ciaramella. “It’s hard because once they go to high school they’re going to pretty much be on their own. It’s very scary, but there’s a time to let go.”

Marco is in eighth grade. School he is interested in: the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture.

“When I was little, I used to draw and now that I’m growing up I’ve been getting very good at it,” said Marco, who added that his dream is to design skyscrapers in Manhattan. “I want to take it to the next level.”

“It helps calm me down to see people I might meet in there,” Marco said. “It helps me, too, because some of the teachers are breaking it up for me and showing me step by step."

Peter is in seventh grade.

“It's exciting,” said Peter, who hopes to study hip-hop, jazz and tap dancing at La Guardia High School in two years. “I hope I can find a high school that’s right for me.”

Alison Fox-Brister, from Kew Gardens, Queens, was with her son Justin, 13:

Schools he was interested in: Townsend Harris High School, York Early College Academy, Stuyvesant High School and Queens Metropolitan High School.

“It’s a little hectic, but we are trying to find the schools that we want him to get an opportunity to look at,” Ms. Fox-Brister said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for parents and children to come out and get the options, meet the representatives so they have an idea of what to expect,” Ms. Fox-Brister said. “It's just a good opportunity for them to meet other kids and talk.”

“I can see my options here,” said Justin, who added that he was not fazed by the pressure to choose a school. “We had meetings before and teachers told us to think about our future jobs and what subjects we like.”

Denise Brown, 32, from Cambria Heights, Queens, with her daughter, Veronica, 13:

Veronica wants to become a choreographer and is interested in a school that specializes in performing arts.

“I’m very excited, but I’m very nervous because this means my daughter is no longer a kid,” Ms. Brown said. “This proves it, and it’s scary for me.”

“It's very nerve-racking,” Ms. Brown said. “I’m looking around and seeing all the kids that will be joining her in the world of high school.”

Ms. Brown said she didn’t know there were events like this when she was in middle school, but wished she could have attended something similar.

“I didn’t explore all the great options New York has,” Ms. Brown said. “I never took advantage of them.”

Veronica: “I’m nervous about my competition. I know there’s other kids and I don’t know how good they are and if they’re better than me.”

"I am really excited about it. I know that as long as I am doing the right thing and working hard to live my dream, that I can get there.”

Magnus Larsson, 44, of Manhattan, was with his daughter Lisa, 13:

Schools she is interested in: La Guardia High School, Brooklyn Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School.

“We just got here but it seems like it’s a full house,” Mr. Larsson said. “We have a few schools in mind we want to look at, not just the specialized schools, in case she can’t get in.”

“I think it's good,” Mr. Larsson said. “You can ask the students, you can ask the teachers. I think it's helpful; whatever information you can get is good.”

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