By Lindsey Clinton, Co-Editor-in-Chief
It’s January, and New Paltz High School seniors have started to wonder if our high school has adequately prepared them for the next chapter in their lives. Thoughts about the classes provided to students as well as their exposure to the surrounding world come to the forefront of the discussion between students and teachers.
For years, city and state education officials have been aware that graduating from high school does not necessarily mean that students will be prepared for college. New York Times author of Most New York Students Are Not College-Ready, Sharon Otterman, found that “only 23 percent of students in New York,” who graduated in 2009 were ready for college and careers. Voices from the senior class at New Paltz High School admit that this trend may unfortunately continue on through 2021.
New Paltz does offer many challenging courses, including numerous Advanced Placement (AP) classes, but some feel that may not be enough.
“I don’t think that they [AP classes] are going to prepare me for college, because not all schools will accept the credits that you can earn,” senior, Maeve Stone, expressed. “And colleges can teach the information in a very different manner than a high school teacher would.”
Senior, Delia Nocito, added that on her tour of Cornell, guides explained to her that their admissions office does like to see students take AP classes, but won’t take the credits because they are not “collegiate” enough.
However, others believe being “underprepared” is not necessarily an issue in every school throughout New York. Some express how AP classes do in fact generate great outcomes for students, because they allow space for students to be challenged academically.
“In comparison, I think New Paltz does a much better job than other schools around the area,” teacher, Rod Castro says. “Other schools, there may only be 50 AP exams distributed throughout the year, but in New Paltz, we are ordering over 1,500 per year.”
These AP classes provide different outlooks on topics that may be of future interest to students. Arizona State University Admissions explains that taking AP courses offered at a high school will showcase a student’s preparation for rigorous classes with workload and early development of college-level academics.
AP courses are not the only classes questions stem from, as the 10 week class, “Life Prep” was a consistent talking point.
“I think we should take Life Prep in junior year instead of freshman year,” Nocito advises with no hesitation. “It is more prevalent to the changes in life that we are preparing for.” Senior Armando Navarro vocalized, “We need to continue to be more aware of what we need for applications and other stuff surrounding college.”
The students are not the only ones who came to this conclusion. School counselor, Stephanie Popper, believes there should be other similar classes offered to students at our high school. She was ecstatic as she shared her vision of creating a new class for upperclassmen to continue their preparation for life after high school.
“I would love to have a class for juniors, similar to life prep,” Popper said. “I believe this could be very helpful because there are a lot of little things students can do. Maybe having a formal setting to explore would be beneficial.”
Castro as well discussed course offerings, eventually focusing on a few electives that stood out to him as “influential”.
“I think we are one of the only schools in the state, and certainly one of the only schools in Ulster County that offers a Black studies class, Latino studies class, [and] women’s rights class,” he acclaimed.
These classes are designed to provide students with an understanding of historical impacts around the world and their importance and contribution to today’s society. Drexel University School of Education explains that understanding a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures will allow students to “gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.” Exposing students to classes, such as the ones Castro listed, encourages more open minded thinking. In turn, students will feel more free to explore new ideas and gain an improved awareness on a topic by taking in different perspectives.
“My students will come back from universities and tell me there was so much more diversity where they went,” Castro said . “And sometimes that can be scary. Sometimes that can be great. But for the most part, they feel like they are not prepared for the diversity out there.”
Although the math and science aspect to learning is important to Castro, preparation in the “humanistic side” is just as crucial. He introduced ideas he had about how our New Paltz High School should offer students the opportunity to explore other areas and diverse communities through projects and trips.
“How can we [teachers] do a better job at exposing students to a more ‘real’ diversity,” Castro questioned. “Something that you will encounter. Something beyond the textbooks.”
Conversation erupts at New Paltz High School each year, as seniors prepare for their post high school experiences. Some feel that they are ready for college as others ponder if these seniors missed necessary training, or critical life experiences along the way.
What aspect of high school do you think has best prepared you for college?
“One thing, I’d say is having teachers give us the freedom and responsibility to get our own work done, or do things for ourselves, that include school projects where we have to interview people, or where we have to make surveys. We have to talk to people that we don’t really know and that’s what college is about-meeting new people!”
“I think the social aspect and the willingness for people to change and meet new people. Teachers being open and people willing to help each other succeed.”
“I’m not going to college. I am going to trade school, so I don’t think high school prepared me at all. I’m not interested in going to college.”
“The friend group and interacting with people. The mixed grade classes and going out and meeting new people that aren’t in your specific friend group.”
Interviews by: Staff Writer Sage Rochetti and Co-Editor-In-Chief Lindsey Clinton