“Let me tell you something,” mother Sophie Kouyate explains. “If Ms. Read wasn’t here, I would be lost.” Ms. Read and the other members of the Partnership Schools’ High School Placement team in New York have helped families like the Kouyates find their way through the process of applying for high school, and the results speak for themselves: 72 percent of students will be heading off to top-tier selective schools next year—consistent with prior years—and they have been granted over $3.2 million in four-year scholarships and aid to attend, with additional scholarships and acceptances still coming in.
We are noticing a few trends in this year’s high school placements:
- The core of our placements—to New York’s Catholic high schools—is as strong as ever, with 90% of our students going onto Catholic high schools. Schools with significant numbers of Partnership student acceptances include Fordham Prep, Cristo Rey, St. Vincent Ferrer, Notre Dame, and Xavier. We’re also pleased that a handful of students are blazing their own trails to Dominican Academy, Regis, and Catholic schools farther afield, such as Sacred Heart in Yonkers and The Montfort Academy in Mt. Vernon.
- A small but growing number of Partnership students and families are seeking independent day and boarding school options—and in several cases are receiving significant scholarships to matriculate at them. For example, Partnership graduates will be heading to Calhoun, York Preparatory, and Trevor Day School in Manhattan, along with Miss Hall’s and Foxcroft boarding schools this fall, each with $50-60,000 per year in scholarship assistance.
- Several Partnership students are thrilled about their acceptances to public high schools that require testing, auditions, or other application elements—including specialized high school Brooklyn Tech, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and Young Women’s Leadership School.
While it is essential for us to look at trends across all our graduates, our approach to high school placement is highly personal—finding the best fit school for each graduate—so it is through the lens of families’ personal experiences that Stephanie Read, our High School Placement Manager, and our team also get some of our most meaningful feedback.
With one child who has graduated from college and another currently in college, Ms. Kouyate is not a newcomer to application processes. But in addition to managing pandemic life, this single mom had a new job, saw how much the high school application process has changed since the last time she went through it, and wanted to be sure that her search was truly about her daughter Mahawa’s unique personality, interests, and needs—not just about fitting a pattern established by her older siblings.
Ferdinand Bonneau could relate. This native New Yorker knew what he wanted for his son’s high school: “one that would challenge him academically; with structure and good guidance; a place that would keep him going with all sorts of activities; and one without a long travel distance,” a particular concern for a single dad in the event of an emergency. His son Aiden agreed with that list, and both knew a handful of schools that fit it. But thought-partnering with Ms. Read about their options made a difference. Mr. Bonneau believes that “if she was not present, honestly, we would have made a different choice; her being involved helped us make a wiser choice.”
Both families cite three aspects of the high school placement process at Partnership Schools as central to its impact. First, the team at each school works hard to answer all parent and student questions beginning as early as sixth grade when the program begins. Starting to think about high schools early allows students and parents to be better prepared for the quick and arduous process that begins summer before 8th grade.
Both families add that Stephanie valued parents’ input; for example, “she really wanted to know why we were looking at some schools,” Ms. Kouyate shares, including some non-Catholic schools, which they were pleased to be able to bring into the conversation, even when they chose a Catholic school in the end.
Second, Stephanie and the school site-based High School Placement support teams get to know the students. Aiden, who transferred to Our Lady Queen of Angels in sixth grade after attending a charter school, said that Ms. Read made a point to get to know him before eighth grade. “She has a sense of me. She knows that I’m well-spoken, that I’m not outrageous,” the even-keeled young man shares. Ms. Kouyate echoes that observation: “the recommendations showed that Stephanie was talking about Mahawa. To say something is going to be a good fit, you have to know the child, and it was clear that the counselor’s recommendations were based on knowing her.”
This feedback confirms the final development of Stephanie Read’s work: equipping school-site teams with the materials and resources to provide the same student and parent support. For example, Chinique Pressley, who we profiled earlier this spring, leads the process for students at St. Mark the Evangelist and has helped more St. Mark students than ever before matriculate to top-tier high schools combining her deep knowledge of students from her work as the 8th grade teacher, and what environments would be most fruitful for them to continue their High School education. Chinique is joined by other colleagues at each Partnership School that focus on high school placement and ensure our students matriculate to the best school for them.
In the end, exploring lots of options further convinced both Mahawa and her mom that they wanted a Catholic school, even though they are Muslim (“We pray too,” Ms. Kouyate says. “It’s only one God. They teach them how to be nice, to share; it is the same thing”), and Mahawa is excited to start at St. Jean Baptiste in the fall. Aiden Bonneau is looking forward to attending Xavier. Mr. Bonneau, for one, has only one remaining question about his Partnership high school placement advisor: “Can I call her when it’s time for college?”