Neighborhood: Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Current School: John Jay Pershing
First Choice: Midwood High School, Edward R. Murrow High School, and again to Leadership and Public Service High School
Admitted: Midwood High School
David Mizhquiri is an eighth grader at John Jay Pershing, a predominately Asian and Latino middle school just two blocks away from his small apartment in Sunset Park. The school collaborates with Maimonides Medical Center. It emphasizes math and science, yet struggles to bring up its reading scores. Every student qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
David has been a proud honors student at the middle school for the past three years. He was able to take Algebra and Living Environment a year ahead of his peers.
“He is an excellent student,” said Rosa, his mother, in Spanish. Rosa emigrated from Ecuador in 1991, when she was 20, and, together with her husband, raised three children, now aged 20, 18 and 13.
David attributes his passion for learning to Rosa.
“She’s the one who taught me to be curious,” he said.
Because of this love of education, David was extremely disappointed to find out that he wasn’t matched with any schools in the first round of the city’s high school admissions process.
In order to navigate that process, David relied on his siblings, as he often does when fluent English is required.
“The hardest part is finding a good school and a close school,” David said. “What’s the point of going to a school that’s far if I’m just going to be tired and can’t focus?”
David, a diminutive boy with a timid demeanor and a small voice to match, surrendered the application process to his older sister, who is now in her second year of Staten Island College. She went through the process herself, but David regrets handing her full control over the fate of the next four years of his life.
“I think I made a mistake letting my sister do it for me,” David said.
His sister only chose three schools on his behalf, schools she felt were the best for her baby brother: Telecommunications High School, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, and Leadership and Public Service High School. They were schools with good enough reputations and they were close to home.
When the first round of acceptance letters came around, David watched as his classmates were handed their envelopes, noticing a stark difference in his own.
“I was sad,” he said, “but I was sadder when I got a flatter envelope than everyone else.”
Several of David’s friends got into the school he wanted to apply to, Brooklyn Technical High School, a specialized high school for math and science students. Most of his classmates got accepted into a high school in the first round.
He didn’t apply because his score on the Specialized High School Admissions Test, the rigorous test required for entry into one of the city’s exclusive 9 high schools, was too low.
“I got a 413 on the SHSAT,” he said, “If I got just 100 points more, I would’ve been.”
He often reminds himself of all the things he didn’t do when he thinks about why he couldn’t join his friends at Brooklyn Tech. His friends did a program for two years in middle school. He didn’t. His friends chose their schools on their own. He didn’t. His friends spend their free time studying. He doesn’t.
David was put through the second round of acceptances, this time applying for Midwood High School, Edward R. Murrow High School, and again to Leadership and Public Service High School.
He still has not received an acceptance letter from any of the high schools he applied to. Letters could come as late as May.
In the mean time, David is preparing for the Regent exams, which take place in June. He’s certain he’s going to pass the science regents, despite the 23 percent passing rate at John Jay Pershing. Less than 20 percent of students at John Jay pass the math regents.
His goal is to start high school taking 10th grade level classes, so that by the time he reaches his senior year, he’ll only have to take three classes.
“Math is my biggest stress right now,” he said. A year from now, he later added, “I see myself stressing over geometry.”
David aspires to be a biologist, just like his older sister.
“My sister says it’s hard,” he said. “So it makes me nervous.”