Sci Academy students cheer as classmates announce their college decisions
Jessie Lingenfelter, The Times-Picayune
Photo Credit: Ted Jackson, The Times-Picayune
Oct. 30th, 2012
Sci Academy’s cheerleading squad burst into the packed auditorium at Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church in eastern New Orleans, cheering “We are the best, we’re headed for success, passing by all the rest with s-u-c-c-e-s-s, we are the BEST!” It was the kind of energy one would expect at a pep rally or a football game, but on April 27, the first graduating class of Sci Academy was celebrating for a different reason.
It was Senior Scholar Signing Day, when seniors announced their final decisions on where they’ll attend college.
Ben Marcovitz, principal and founder of Sci Academy, opened the ceremony, saying: “This moment is the start of your journey to life after high school. This is the moment that you are shattering the belief that some kids are just never going to be good at school. This is the moment that you all have proven that all children can succeed, no matter what.”
Of the 52 students in the senior class, 49 have been accepted into a four-year college; 46 represent the first generation in their families to enter college.
More than $1 million in financial aid and scholarships have been awarded to the senior class. The seniors have amassed a total of 188 acceptances to 45 colleges, including Tulane University, Smith College, George Washington University, Louisiana Tech and LSU.
Senior Eddie Barnes, who was selected the first Mr. Sci Academy, will go to Middlebury College in Vermont in the fall to study psychology.
“The teachers and staff here don’t ever tell you they think you can go to college; they tell you that they know you can,” Barnes said. “They really made me believe in myself.”
Sci Academy, located at 5552 Read Blvd. in eastern New Orleans, was launched in 2008 as a high school with a primary focus on college preparation, and Barnes and his classmates are the first graduating class that began as freshmen.
Allie Levey, director of college counseling, helped the seniors and their parents with everything from filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to drafting college-admission essays to how to approach a future college roommate over conflict.
“So much of the students’ success hinges on the support around them, and we are here to offer that support,” Levey said. “It is never a question of whether they will succeed or not. We strategize to provide students with help wherever they need it — with tutoring, ACT prep courses, whatever – so that success is the only option.”
With more than 90 percent of the students eligible for free or reduced lunch, Sci Academy makes sure the students receive financial support as well, by covering the seniors’ standardized test fees, college application fees and campus visits across the country.
Once the students are accepted into college, Sci Academy works to help them gain as many scholarships as possible.
Senior Stephanie Wyatt is heading to Smith College in Massachusetts on a full scholarship to study mechanical engineering. Wyatt is an honors student and a student ambassador, directing visitors at Sci Academy and accompanying staff members on trips to other schools to recruit eighth-graders.
“I really wanted to go to Smith College because of its small size and the strong support system from faculty and students it offers,” she said. “I figured it would be a smooth transition from Sci Academy, where we are offered the same things.”
Senior Robert Thomas, also an honors student, is excited about attending the University of Louisiana Monroe to study political science.
“Out of all the places I was accepted, ULM appealed to me most,” Thomas said. “It’s just far away enough from New Orleans to strike out on my own, and some of my friends from Sci Academy are going there, too.”
Said Marcovitz: “The pragmatic focus is for kids to have the choice to attend college, to have any job they want, to ensure they can live the life they want. We want to leave the whole world completely open to them, give them access to the things that the most powerful and privileged kids their age have.”