What’s life like as a high schooler at Success? Kayla Christiani-Ellis and Tasnim Moumouni are two current scholars who had to choose between specialized high schools and SA HSLA. We asked them to share what ultimately drew them to Success, and whether the experience has so far lived up to their expectations.
You both received multiple offers to specialized high schools. How did you decide?
Tasnim: STEM has always been my main focus, so when I earned a place at the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College I was excited. Still, I thought it was important to do research before deciding, so I went to all of the open houses. I wanted to see which environment I felt most comfortable with. I also looked at the curriculum at each school. I wanted variety because I love math and science, but I also love music. I spoke to my parents about my different goals for high school and for college. For high school I wanted a chance to try new things, but long-term I also wanted an experience that would prepare me to do well in college. Since I earned a place in the Honors STEM program —where we get to take college-level engineering and pre-med classes — I decided it seemed like the best option for all the things I wanted.
Kayla: It was a really difficult choice. I’ve always wanted to go to LaGuardia — I was pretty excited to audition and be accepted — and I also received an offer from the Brooklyn Technical High School. I’m the same as Tasnim, in the end it was the variety of options at Success that made me decide to stay here. I’m really into singing, dancing, and acting and I didn’t want to be limited by having to choose just one or two of these passions. I saw that Success offers tons of arts electives and also clubs, and when I spoke to the advisors and deans I found out that there is some flexibility in changing your schedule once you start here — so that means you can try some classes out to see what you like best and you aren’t locked into anything. That was exciting to me.
Are you happy with your choice so far?
Tasnim: The best part about going to school here is that I found it easy to make friends with a lot of different kids from different grades. My upperclassmen friends are all from Track, which I take as an elective. I’m also in the Band Club, so I have friends who are excited about music. And I’m in the Humanitarian Club, which is all about giving back to the community and doing volunteer work. It’s exciting to feel involved both in school and outside — we recently got together on a Saturday to bring meals to the elderly. I’m also learning to code in computer science, so I do feel that I have the variety I was looking for.
Kayla: I also have a lot of new friends from different grades, which helps when it comes to getting advice on how to get the most out of high school! I was really scared to start meeting new people when I first got here, but I put that to the side and realized it’s actually fun and refreshing to meet new people and have new experiences with these different people. You get to see life from different perspectives. The best part has been a feeling of belonging and bonding through exciting times — like when my dance team got to perform on World of Dance. That was not something I ever imagined doing in high school, especially not as a freshman! We were all so nervous but we got through it together. I also get a feeling of home when I go to any shows or performances in school, because so many people come to watch and cheer together.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Tasnim & Kayla: Time management!!
Why is that important, and have you found ways to adjust?
Tasnim: I guess that’s the other side of being so involved in different things — you still have all your classes and there is a lot of work, so it’s not going to be as easy as middle school when things were more predictable and your teachers set your schedule for you. What has made a big difference for me is creating good relationships with my teachers, who help me plan out my work and look at these challenges in a way that makes it seem more manageable. They are really approachable and happy when you ask for help. I also ask my older friends for tips.
Kayla: This has been the biggest challenge for me so far, because I tend to procrastinate. What I realized is that you have to invest in your work and be responsible for yourself. I’ve learned how to plan backwards from due dates so that I don’t leave everything to the last second, because you do that and then all of a sudden have an extra rehearsal called unexpectedly, and it really can mess up your grades. I really didn’t like this approach at first because I wasn’t used to it, but as I get better, I feel proud about myself because I’m making progress. I’ve always been a good student, but instead of getting frustrated when my grades were slipping, I became more determined. I set rules for myself — like turning off my phone at night when I’m doing homework so I don’t get distracted. Even small actions can help.
Would you recommend SA HSLA to a friend?
Tasnim: I’m enjoying my experience so far, and the classes aren’t as difficult as I was afraid they would be — even though there is a lot of work! I’m managing to have a pretty full year as a just a freshman, so it seems like my high school career is off to a good start. I think anyone making an important decision about where to go to school just needs to ask themselves what matters most to them — Is it making new friends? Is it getting into a good college? Is it challenging yourself? I personally feel you can find all these things at SA HSLA, but it’s important to explore options because these four years of our lives are important!
Kayla: Yes, I’ve enjoyed being a freshman here so far — but I agree with Tasnim, you need to think about your own goals and style and not just follow what your friends do. Talk to people and consider different opinions, but in the end you have to decide for yourself!
Pictured above: Kayla Christiani-Ellis (left) and Tasnim Moumouni