If experience helps, choosing a college may be easier for DPS students than for those who haven’t experienced “choice” for high school.
DPS students choice in and out of schools a lot. At North, South, GW and Northfield, the choice out rates range from 54% to 70%. East is the exception, with only 34% of students choicing out.
The down side may be that so many schools are retaining less than half of their boundary students, but the up side is that students exercising choice are figuring out what’s a good fit for them in high school—and the students we interviewed are saying they’re happy with where they ended up.
The current class of Stapleton ninth graders has always been the oldest in their school.“You got to choose a lot of stuff…(and) it was fun to be the leader the whole time,” says Tommy Cummings. But in high school he wanted something different.
Cummings knew from the start that he was going to check out several high schools. He had played on the championship baseball team at McAuliffe and wanted the challenge of a competitive team from the start. “I liked TJ, East and South and would have been fine going to any of them. They were all pretty similar.”
His mom Keri says, “I was blown away at how he would have done fine at South or TJ or East. They really all have great programs, really comprehensive, great facilities.”
Cummings initially did not get into East, his first choice, and was placed at Northfield, his second choice. But additional seats at East were opened up shortly after Round 1 placements were made—and he switched to East.
Cummings says with upperclassmen in a school, “you learn how to talk to people who aren’t exactly your age. As weird as it sounds, I’ve never been bullied because I was the oldest. In some cases you want to be bullied because you have to learn how it works. It teaches you how to live life and stuff.”
Cate Downey, who is going to George Washington (GW) this fall, would have been happy to remain the oldest in the school and have no upperclassmen, but, she says, “I didn’t like how we were always the ones who had to test everything for the school.”
Downey chose Northfield in Round 1, but by summer felt like there were too many unknowns with a new school, and, “They hadn’t hired a music teacher, which I really wanted to know about.” And, she says, she was “not too fond” of the dress code.
“I think what they had in mind was going to be a really great school. I think it still is going to be a great school by the time my sister is ready to go to high school. If I would have been born later, then I would definitely go to this school. It sounds like it’s going to be organized and really great, and the kids are going to get into amazing colleges. It’s just not ready right now…It’s still an idea.”
Downey visited GW and says, “We just really liked it. The music teacher, he was amazing, and that’s something that I do a lot, so I needed it to be good and it was good. I met kids from the music program too, who are also really talented. They were saying good things about it.” And, she adds, “We don’t have to start the clubs, they’re already there and that’s relieving.”
Emma Krantz says when she visited GW, “on my way walking to the office, there was this one boy who had graduated. He was helping out there. My dad and I were talking to him and he said, ‘It was the best four years of my life.’ That really shone a light to me. And when I went to talk to the Athletic Director/Assistant Principal, he had all these answers to all my questions. They were just so welcoming and kind.
“I have very strong learning disabilities, and I need a lot of help…With George Washington they had all these resources that would help me out. I could have a mentor to help me out with handling and balancing out schoolwork and friends, and just helping me with things like dyslexia and ADHD and all those different things. They were a community that could help me and others that need help too.
“I have a lot of friends that I’m going to miss a lot, friends all over like Regis and East and other places. On the other hand, I’m happy I’m going to George Washington because it’s something different and it’s not what I’ve been used to,” says Krantz. “Yes, upper classmen may be frightening to a freshman, but there’s just so much diversity, which I’m really excited about. I’ve never experienced that here because in all my other schools it was all these Stapleton kids that I’ve always known for my whole life.”
Both Krantz and Downey agreed getting up early suits them better than having a late start and dismissal time, and both said they like the idea of trying out a lot of different electives in high school.
“One of the things that made me interested in going to Northfield was that it was a brand new school, which some people were concerned about. I understand that, but I was also excited about it because…(at McAuliffe) the first class got to help define the school,” says Macy Gosch. “The opportunity to do that in high school I think would be really cool and exciting.
“I really like the four-year pathways because you get to really focus on two specific areas, whereas at other schools, it changes every semester. I’m really interested in theater and biomedical science, so I get to do four years specifically focusing on those two things, which I think will be really awesome.”
Gosch also really likes the idea of Northfield’s late start time. She, like a lot of teenagers, stays up late doing homework and, in her case, dance practices. And she is excited that Northfield is “very focused on academics… You’re required to take four years of everything…That would impress colleges,” she says.
She admits she was upset at first because Northfield assigns a lot of summer homework, but, she adds, “I think it’s been good…I’m going to be writing essays in a few weeks, so I need to get back into this mind set.”
Humberto Velez likes the idea of attending a new school and says Northfield will “keep students at the right level.” He’s glad there are summer assignments because, “They keep us into education.” One of the books he found especially interesting, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, had an assignment that required him to write a paper about a book he had read previously. “It changed the way I thought of the story—and my perspective.” Velez selected computer science for his pathway. He likes that the pathway options let him choose what he’s interested in and says, “It’s good that we can stay with it four years.”
Velez adds, “I like that there are students coming in from different places so I’ll get to meet new people and be more open-minded about different things because everyone has different religions, different beliefs.”
For Jack Seward, the pathways were one of the first things he considered when choosing NHS. “I was very excited about being able to choose what you want to dive deeper in and study over the four years of high school.” Seward chose computer science and politics and law pathways.
He is also excited about having a brand new state-of-the-art building and says, “Being a member of the founding class gives you the opportunity to build the reputation that will hopefully make the school as attractive as it can be and as successful as it can be in the years to follow.
“I think something Northfield offers that other schools didn’t offer is the inexperience,” says Seward. “You can suggest to teachers, maybe we should do something this way… I’m interested in robotics, maybe debate. Maybe I’ll start some of those clubs.”
Asha Mohamed is interested in Northfield’s politics and law pathway because she’s interested in criminal justice and hopes to work for the FBI some day. She’s looking forward to playing a sport every season: first softball, then basketball, and she’s not sure what she’ll play in the spring.
Having a break for physical activity in the middle of the day is one part of Northfield’s program that caught Sofi Spratt’s attention. “I heard that there’s a break in the school day to do yoga or CrossFit or running to wake up our brain and not feel like we’re getting tired throughout the day. That’s a really good idea.” And, she says, “I’m really excited for the academics and being in the IB program and the sports that they have.” The biomedical science and music pathways fit Spratt’s goals. She wants to be a veterinarian and continue her music study.
Devante Tangur says he liked Northfield’s summer reading assignment, A People’s History, because it’s not sugar coated. “I’m like a revolutionary Marcolm X, so this book meant everything to me.” Tangur says he also loves sports. “My main sport is football and that’s really motivating me to do better in the classroom.” He approves of Northfield’s policy requiring a higher GPA to play sports, saying he is a student first, then an athlete.