December 14, 2011
When William Taveras approached the Washington Bridge Post Office on West 180th Street, college applications in hand, with whoops and applause from hundreds of classmates in the background, it was a step toward a goal he set five years ago.
As a member of the first class of sixth-graders at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, Taversas said he often heard founding principal Brett Kimmel tell students his main objective was to get everyone into college.
Kimmel brought Taveras’s cohort a few steps closer to that goal today, when all 76 seniors marched the three blocks from their Upper Manhattan school to the post office that would mail their transcripts and applications to universities.
Each student was required to apply to CUNY and SUNY colleges, and some said they were applying to other schools as well. WHEELS — which lists “high-dose” tutoring as one of its strategies to build college readiness — required each student to apply to a minimum of six colleges.
With the school’s other students and Chancellor Dennis Walcott cheering him on, Taveras, 17, said the afternoon was a crystallization of the support he received all year as the school pushed its first graduating class toward the application due-dates.
“They were on us every single day, 24/7, sending us emails about everything we needed to do to so we’d keep doing it,” he said.
During the procession, two 11th-grade girls whispered to each other, “That’s going to be us next year.”
Kimmel said that’s exactly what he wants to hear his students say.
“As much about shining the spotlight on the seniors like we did, for me as the principal it was equally important to have all of those sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, ninth-, 10th-, 11th-graders out there participating and seeing this, and ritualizing this event as something that happens once you’re a WHEELS senior — that this is what we do, what we aspire toward,” he said.