Published in Gotham Schools (now called Chalkbeat NY)
October 22, 2013
By Oliver Morrison
Ananda Kimm-Drapeau, 13, summed up her high school aspirations by quoting a friend: ”One of my friends said, ‘I know you and I know if you don’t get into Stuyvesant you’ll be crying until the first day of school.’”
Kimm-Drapeau said all her relatives went to either Stuyvesant High School or the Bronx High School of Science, two of New York’s most competitive specialized schools. The two schools, known for their rigorous academic programs, admit applicants based exclusively on their test scores. Kimm-Drapeau is skeptical of friends who say they prefer Bronx Science.
“People think they won’t get into Stuyvesant,” she said. “Or they think the kids at Stuyvesant look miserable and that Bronx Science is easier,” she said.
Kimm-Drapeau, who attends M.S. 54, Booker T. Washington Middle School on West 107th Street, which has a gifted program, was one of thousands of students attending high school fairs across the city,
At the fair, Kimm-Drapeau said that other than Stuyvesant, she had only three or four schools that she could list as her preferences. Her mother said they needed to gather more information on more schools to round out the list — just in case her daughter doesn’t get into Stuyvesant, the city’s most selective school. “Anything could happen and we don’t want her to go to a school she absolutely hates,” Ellen Kimm said.
Though her heart is set on Stuyvesant, she and her mother came to the Manhattan fair to take a closer look at other selective schools, such as Bard High School Early College and LaGuardia High School for Music and Art & the Performing Arts, which requires an audition for admission.
Kimm said her daughter began to consider LaGuardia, the high school known as the setting for the movie “Fame,” after being cast recently in her middle school’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”
“It’s been Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant,” said Kimm. “Then last week she asked me, ’Is it okay if I become an actor?’”
“No, I just wanted to audition for something,” Kimm-Drapeau interjected. At the fair she asked two seniors at LaGuardia how much time they spend in drama classes, and they told her it was three or four periods a day.
“I think three or four hours a day might be a little much for me,” Kimm-Drapeau said. “I want to be able to do it often but not too often.”
She said her real interest is in medicine. As a fifth- and sixth-grader she used to read health articles on CNN.com.
“I used to be obsessed with Sanjay Gupta,” she said. “He talks to people on TV but he’s also a brain surgeon. That’s literally what I want to do. Be a doctor first and then an entertainer who talks to people.”
Kimm said her daughter’s interest might also be personal: Her father passed away from cancer when she was little and her brother has autism.
Kimm-Drapeau and her mother had also looked at several smaller schools, such as the High School for American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx, like Stuyvesant a specialized school. The eighth-grader said she likes small schools, such as her own, where she knows everyone. ”I don’t want to feel like I’m surrounded by people I don’t know,” she said.
Kimm said it was reassuring to hear from other parents that going to a small high school — somewhere other than Stuyvesant, which has more than 3,000 students – could help Kimm-Drapeau’s chances later when she applies to college. “Colleges can only take so many kids from one school. Harvard can’t only accept Stuyvesant students,” Kimm-Drapeau reasoned.
But her mom said the process has often felt hectic. During tours at the High School of American Studies, she said thousands of students and parents were all lined up, rushing to see the school. “The competition is fierce,” Kimm noted.
Kimm-Drapeau, meanwhile, said she is totally focused on getting into high school right now. “I’m not going to miss a tour because I want to hang out with friends,” she said.
Much of her energy these days, she said, is focused on improving her test scores so she can get into Stuyvesant. She has been studying after school for the Specialized High School Admissions Test with a tutoring company called iBidPrep.
“It’s my dream school,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go there.”