This week, the much delayed placements were announced for NYC’s elite specialized high schools, and many SA eighth graders are now deciding where they want to be next year. Is a specialized high school the best option? Should I stay or go, is what many kids are asking themselves. In the case of Idalis Antonia Soto and Cana Iinuma, two SA scholars who were accepted to Brooklyn Tech last year, the answer was to stay. They’re now in the spring of their freshman year at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, and agreed to share how they came to their decisions and what they’re enjoying so far about this first year at SA HSLA.
You’ve both been SA scholars since first grade. Why did you apply elsewhere, and why did you decide to stay?
Idalis: I was mostly looking for a good school closer to home, because I live in the Bronx. I was pretty shocked when I found out I was one of several other SA kids to be accepted to these top schools — it’s an exciting opportunity. Then, I almost broke down when I thought about how much I would miss my friends! I know that I want to become a psychologist, but I wasn’t that passionate about the curriculum at Brooklyn Tech, and I thought that my spot belonged to someone who was.
Cana: I want to study acting, but didn’t find out until after I turned down my place that Brooklyn Tech has a performing arts program. I was worried at first that I’d missed out. Then, I became involved in our program here — and now I’m happy to be here!
What stands out as a highlight of your SA high school experience so far?
Cana: Our theater and performing arts program is really great. I feel that our teachers, especially Ms. Edwards, are very involved with making sure we grow as performers. I’m excited to be part of our spring musical, In the Heights. The show opens this week! In school, I also study photography, choir, and theater electives. I plan to apply to our Summer Experience Program next year so that I have a chance to participate in a performing arts program that’s out of state.
Idalis: I’m most excited about the psychology club, because I’ve known since middle school that I want to become a psychologist. Last week we learned about the Stroop effect. I think it’s so interesting to consider how the mind perceives colors and words. Ms. Kipfel, our school psychologist, leads the club sessions — so we learn a lot.
Actually, that’s my favorite thing about going to school here: the freedom to choose your electives and to join or start clubs based on your interests. It’s a liberal arts school, which means you really get to have the broader experience and explore subjects. There’s a lot to get involved in; I’m the class representative in student government, and I also take choir and theater electives.
You both earned top ten GPAs in your class last semester. Do you feel challenged by the curriculum here?
Idalis: A lot of kids complain because the curriculum is so intense. Of course, I’m annoyed by having a lot of homework, but I would rather do the hard work than go somewhere and not learn. I have a really strong memory of one of my elementary school teachers telling me I’m good at math, so I’ve always taken a lot of math classes. Now I’m in Geometry. The math here is difficult; if you love math, you’re probably going to have fun solving the problems we do.
Cana: Success is hard, but worth it because the teachers really push us. A lot of kids might complain about that, but I don’t think it’s something to complain about. There’s a lot of work to do, but that’s true for all good high schools. In my opinion, the ones that don’t push you to do the work don’t help you become as successful. As you can see here, all the seniors get accepted to colleges. I think this high school helps makes kids successful in the future.
Any other unique things at SA HSLA that you think should be considered when making the decision to stay or go?
Idalis: Our college team seems very different than other schools’. Here, the attitude is, “You’re going to college no matter what and we’re going to help you get there.” The other thing that seems really cool is the Summer Experience Program that you can apply to if you have great grades. I’m applying to the psychology program at Columbia. If I’m accepted, I’ll get to spend three weeks taking classes there with other high schoolers and even college kids.
Cana: In my view, we’re really all the same as the specialized high schools. We aren’t called specialized, because we are called Success!