downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 17 | September 8 - 14, 2006

Back to School 2006

Downtown Express file photo by Elisabeth Robert.

Millennium High School’s first graudation last June.

We’ve come a long way in less than a millennium

By Angela Benfield

Despite graduating thier first senior class this past June, the principal and staff of Millennium High School have barely had a moment to reflect on their sizeable accomplishment. Millennium now has its largest incoming class since it opened four years ago. It also hopes to construct a gymnasium and form its first advisory board, an important fundraising vehicle for its top-notch programs.

Millennium has come a long way since it first welcomed students to its temporary location at the High School of Art & Design on East 57th Street in 2002. The school is now in its permanent location –a beautiful facility on the 11th, 12th & 13th floors of 75 Broad St. — and last spring received more than 2,500 applications for 140 seats. It has quickly become one of the most sought after high schools in the city, and in fact the only high school in Lower Manhattan to give admission preference to Downtown students.

“There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment that ‘we did it,’” said principal Robert Rhodes looking back on the success of the past four years. He adds that the primary goal of the school is to “prepare good citizens for college.” Millennium graduated its first senior class with a 95 percent college acceptance rate, statistics which make him very proud.

Rhodes, who calls the daily hum of the school “a beautiful chorus,” says the incoming students are “even more enthusiastic about classes and learning, and they want to join more clubs and activities.”

One of the reasons Millennium has been so successful is the clubs and activities offered by the YMCA. Millennium has a partnership with the Y; the mission of this collaboration is to “build a bridge between the academic and youth development world,” says YMCA director Tami Farber.

The Y’s after school program offers everything from academic support to belly dancing to the very popular “School of Rock.” These programs – free of charge – give students an incentive to become more involved in their school community and in the world at large.

“As a school we are becoming more efficient and have gotten past some of our growing pains,” says math teacher David Becker. “Though we had a great year last year, this year will probably be even better. The main concern is that we’ve run out of the funding that initially launched the school,” he adds.

In 2002, Friends of Community Board 1, led by Madelyn Wils, helped raise about $12 million very quickly for the build-out of the school. The vision of having a successful, academically rigorous, college preparatory school for the community has become a reality.

But the work is not yet done. Although Millennium has a state-of-the-art physical fitness room fully equipped with treadmills and weight machines, it does not have a gymnasium for the students to practice team sports such as basketball or fencing. Rhodes says that the only thing he would have done differently was “push harder for a gym from the outset.”

There is actually space on the 34th floor of 75 Broad St. to construct a gym, which Rhodes is anxious to have done, but the cost of $1.4 million to transform the empty space into a usable gymnasium is holding up the project.

The high school has been reaching out to some of its former supporters, such as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, City Councilmember Alan Gerson, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to financially assist with completing the school they helped create.

Another one of Rhodes’ missions is to form an advisory board, Friends of Millennium, to help the school with long-term fundraising for its arts and sports programs. The board is still in its development stages, but Rhodes hopes to have it up and ready to raise money by the end of the year.

When asked how he envisions Millennium five years from now, Rhodes says, “With the same sound and feel of that beautiful chorus…very academic…lots of opportunities for kids in arts and sports…the same high graduation and college acceptance rates, but with even more competitive schools and several ivy league acceptances each year.”


Angela Benfield is the parent coordinator at Millennium High School.



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