Volume 17 • Issue 16 | SEPTEMBER 10 - 16, 2004



Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert

Mathu Subramanwan, left, a teacher at Pace University High School, speaks with Yvette Sy, the principal.

New Chinatown high school opens with Pace

By Nancy Reardon

Sakura Lin is only starting high school this September, but she already has her sights on the next step.

“I want to work for the F.B.I. some day,” she said. “I want to go to M.I.T., but I hear it’s really hard to get into.”

Lin, 14, said she hopes that the next four years at the new Pace University High School in Chinatown will help her meet these goals. The school welcomes 111 incoming ninth graders this year to its Hester St, location in a separate wing of the MS 131 school building. Students attending Pace High will have access to campus facilities and attend undergraduate courses at Pace University’s Downtown campus.

“It seems like this school tries to bring the students a step forward than other high schools,” said Lin. “I like that this school will be much harder.”

Only 32 percent of incoming high school students in New York City graduate with a diploma, and only 10 percent take the Regents exam. Art Moloney, chairperson of the Pace School of Education and an advisor to Pace High said the school’s first priority is to improve these figures with a more personal approach.

“We have a commitment to know every student and parent before they leave this school,” he said. “We want to be successful with students at all levels of ability.”

Pace High’s principal Yvette Sy said that the curriculum, though rigorous, is designed to make sure that every student can keep up. Each student will be matched with a faculty advisor and attend weekly meetings. “If we know each kid well, then we know we can make them succeed,” she said.

Moloney met with faculty members this week to emphasize this core philosophy and run training sessions with advisors. Earlier this summer, incoming students attended a week-long orientation at Pace University’s Westchester campus for some preparation of their own.

Students engaged in team-building activities while staying in dormitories and eating in campus dining halls. Sy said exposure to college life is a key part of the school. “They saw 18-year-olds during orientation and they were able to see themselves,” she said. “The end point is not that far away for them. They can see themselves at the end of the journey.”

Sakura Lin said she had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends and meet her teachers at the orientation.

Xiao Rui Lin, who is not related to Sakura, agreed. “It was fun,” she said. “I liked the fresh air of Westchester. There were a lot of games and we really got to know each other. I think I liked the fresh air the most. We don’t have a lot of that in the city.”

Xiao Rui, 13, said she hopes to be a journalist some day and is undecided on a college. She hopes Pace High will help her make that decision in a few years. “I wanted to come to this high school because they said there are a lot of things they will do to get us ready for college.”

When Sakura, Xiao Rui and their fellow classmates reach junior year, they will have access to college counselors from Pace to help them select and apply to schools. Seminars on the college experience and financing options will also be available for parents. Sy said she hopes parents will meet with faculty often and even sit in on their children’s classes so they feel fully involved in the program.

Both Sakura and Xiao Rui live in Chinatown, but all five boroughs are represented in their class. Sy said that 60 percent of the students live in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but she did not have statistics for the rest of the city.

Pace High received many more applications this spring than it could accommodate, said Sy, who added that at least two parents each week in August made personal appeals for their children’s admittance. The 111 spots were filled on a non-selective, first-come, first-served basis and the school expects to have 400 students when all four grades open.

Moloney said he thinks demand will only increase after this year. “There are a lot of people who will be looking at us and evaluating our performance,” he said. “We welcome that, frankly.”

Pace High is a member of Brown University’s Coalition of Essential Schools network that works to evaluate and build on the successes of member schools. Pace High receives funding from the Carnegie foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, New Visions for Public Schools, which is affiliated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and also has a regular budget from the Department of Education.

Pace has also guaranteed five full scholarships for each graduating class. The university will also benefit from the high school. The Pace School of Education will take advantage of Pace High as a training ground for its own students.

“Pace gets the opportunity to contribute to the development of a college preparatory school where kids don’t usually have that kind of opportunity,” said Moloney. “We talk about progressive methods in education, and here we have the chance to show them at work to our students.”



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