Neighborhood: The Bronx
Current School: Broome Street Academy Charter High School
Josue Soriano missed the first deadline for submitting his list of preferred high schools to his guidance counselor at the East Fordham Academy for the Arts, a small, mostly Hispanic middle school in the Bronx.
The 15-year-old thought the due date was Sunday, not the day before. That mistake bumped him into the second round, where choices were more limited.
He wanted a high school with a respectable graduation rate, no uniforms, and where he could easily travel to–away from the Bronx. “There is sort of like this stigma that not all schools in the Bronx are the best,” said Josue, an ambitious special education student, whose father emigrated from Mexico in 1992 and first worked three jobs. “My mom wanted me to go a little further in Manhattan.”
Isrrael Soriano, Josue’s father, said his criteria was making sure his son picks a high school that will help him move on to college.
Soriano and his family organized a list of preferred schools for the second round High School Fair, an event where students who are not matched with a school after the first round meet with representatives from schools that still have openings. On that March day, many on Josue’s list didn’t show up, Josue said.
He and his family approached the table of the Broome Street Academy Charter High School, which was not on their list. Founded in 2011, the small SOHO charter high school has a strong reputation for serving kids in foster care, those who live in homeless shelters, or who attend underperforming schools. The school currently serves 330 students.
The family struck up a conversation with the school’s Caregiver Coordinator, Erica Coca. Josue said he was impressed that she emphasized helping him better himself and eventually graduate from college. “I liked what it gave off,” he said, “this positive energy of we’re here to help your children.”
For the elder Soriano, the new charter school meant that Josue would have smaller sized classes and more teacher attention. The school has 15-20 students for per teacher and co-teacher. According to data from the New York City Department of Education, 36 percent of students in the 2013-3014 school year had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The school’s demographic from that same academic year is 63 percent Black, 32 percent Hispanic, 2 percent White and 1 percent Asian.
The Broome Street Academy uses the CHAMPION model, where an adult at the school serves as a mentor and role model to a student all four years. The ninth grader said that the method gives him “that boost of encouragement” to know he has someone at the school looking out for him.
For additional academic support, the charter school offers daily after-school tutoring for all of its classes. His high school Algebra 1 Teacher and Tutor, Marquis Alvaradous, noticed his growth in confidence and his dedication to succeeding. He wrote in an email, “Originally, he felt that in spite of his best efforts that he would fail the class.” Josue, who said he is “horrible” at Math, was initially failing the course and now has a passing grade.
His teacher added, “As time passes he sees that his efforts are paying off. He grasps the concepts and his grades are getting better.” Alvaradous said that Josue attends lunch and after-school tutoring sessions to better understand the subject. The extra work is paying off. Josue’s grades continue to get better in the subject.
The ninth grader, who has a warm easygoing manner and an infectious smile, said that he plans to eventually earn his PhD in psychology. “I am fascinated by the human mind and the human behavior,” he said. One of the schools he is considering is Michigan State University. He learned about the school from his aunt who lives in the state. If he achieves his goals, Josue would be the second person in his family to complete high school and college, and the first to earn a doctorate.
Youth from all five boroughs are eligible to enter the admissions lottery for the Broome Street Academy. In the school’s 2016 Renewal Recommendation Report published by the Charter Schools Institute, it stated that 37.2 percent of students graduated in four years with a Regents diploma and the school’s overall graduation rate was over 40 percent in 2015. Of that group, 82.8 percent enrolled in a two or four-year college. Earlier this year, the State University of New York renewed the school’s charter until 2021. Through the non-for-profit, The Door, the school offers a college readiness program, and legal and health services.
The East Fordham Academy For The Arts, an unscreened middle school for about 350 mostly Hispanic students, fell far below the citywide average. Department of Education data from the 2014-2015 school year listed that 8 percent of students met standards on the State English Exam and 2 percent in Math. Citywide figures are 30 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
As he looks back on his son’s first year, Soriano said that he is satisfied with his son’s school choice.
Josue reflected back on the high school admissions process and what he might have done differently. He would not change anything. Otherwise, he might not have ended up at the Broome Street Academy. “I’m a strong believer on nothing happens just to happen. There is a reason as to why it happens,” he said.
“If I had done it differently,” he said, “I might have been where I did not feel 100 percent comfortable or I’m not getting the help that I deserve.”