On Sept. 9, two days into this school year, I got the news I had been waiting for since the spring: Success Academy Cobble Hill had a seat available for my daughter Ivette. A week later, I got more good news. There was an open seat for my younger daughter, Alexa.
I was so emotional, I cried.
My tears were from joy and relief. After months on the waitlist, my daughters could now attend the school I wanted for them. They had been in a terrible district school, where they were ignored and didn’t feel safe. At Success Academy, they would get a fresh start.
It was difficult to remain optimistic during those months, knowing that the odds were against me. Thousands of families like mine had applied to Success Academy and didn’t win the lottery. But I couldn’t give up.
I did plan for the worst-case scenario, the possibility that my daughters would have to return to their former school if they didn’t come off the waitlist. I was determined not to let that happen, so I looked for a school close to work – an hour away from where we live – and found one where I enrolled them in September.
Thousands of families like mine had applied to Success Academy and didn’t win the lottery. But I couldn’t give up.
I had a tough decision to make when Success Academy called. My daughters are not fluent in English, and their out-of-district school had a dual language program. I had questions about how they would learn at Success Academy, where the only language of instruction is English. But in the end, I chose SA Cobble Hill because I am certain that my daughters will get a better education and learn English faster.
I also made a decision that no parent wants to make: I agreed to have Ivette, who is 9, repeat third grade. In her former school, Ivette was not reading or writing at grade level. In math class, she was still counting with her fingers. Frankly, I was surprised when her teacher told me she would be promoted. I knew she was not ready for fourth grade. I want Ivette to succeed when she gets to college, but that won’t happen if she isn’t well prepared.
It has been a month now since the girls started at SA Cobble Hill. Even though they’re still adjusting, they are so much happier than they were a year ago. Last year, they weren’t motivated to learn; now, they wake up excited for school. Ivette used to get teased at her former school, but at Success Academy, her new classmates respect one another and their teacher.
I am happier, too. In the past, I stayed up late helping my daughters with their homework because the teachers didn’t explain things well. It was difficult to find time because I am a single parent with a full-time job, and English is not my native language. At their new school, the teachers are helping my daughters learn even though they speak to them only in English. The teachers have taken the time to get to know my girls, so they are figuring out how to help them. They also keep me informed about their weekly progress and give me advice on how to help them at home.
Ivette now reads every day, on the train and before she goes to bed. She loves the books that her teacher recommends. As a result, her vocabulary and confidence are growing. Alexa, who is in first grade, is making progress, too. Last week, for the first time, she got through a full set of math problems.
Despite the odds, I am so glad I didn’t give up hope. My daughters are finally in a school where they can learn and thrive. To the many families that did not win the lottery, I encourage you to have faith and try again next year.