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Enthusiastic high school students mail their own college applications

Waving university pendants, seventy graduating seniors from Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School’s class of 2013 paraded from the steps of their school to a waiting postal truck at the corner of Tilden and E. 57th in East Flatbush. There, they mailed applications to the college or university of their choice. The 285-student school, grades 9-12, is one of three high schools housed on the Tilden High School campus.

Smiling ear to ear, City Councilman Jumanne Williams walked with them in one of the best marches he’s ever been on. “Seventy out of seventy-four are applying to college,” he said beaming. “Nobody can tell them who they are and what they can do. This is an example of them creating a future.” Williams has stood or walked with countless anti-violence, “Occupy”, and social justice rallies. This was an event of pure positive energy and building a future.

Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School is a New York City public high school working in partnership with New York City Outward Bound and Expeditionary Learning. Students complete a challenging standards-based curriculum that readies them for college.

“We think completing and mailing college applications is worthy of attention,” says Principal Matt Brown, explaining the pep rally atmosphere, cheerleaders and all. The day was a milestone in their high school career. Sixth graders from a sister school also shared in the excitement. Senior Shannon Morris who lives in nearby Canarsie said she concentrated on media studies and was applying to the CUNY system. “I’d like to go to York or Baruch,” she said, while posting her application.

As the pep rally wound down and students retreated indoors to a reception/lunch of delivered pizza, Principal Brown spoke of the joys of the school. He loves hearing from former graduates, like those from SUNY Albany or Union College, who return to visit. With a sense of gratification, he said, “They’ve told me how the things they’ve learned have helped them be successful (in college).”

A mainstay of this school is the five-day adventure program upstate (backpacking, canoeing, and climbing and two days completely on their own) that the students go on as freshmen. “This really pushes the borders of what the students think they can do,” Principal Brown says. The outdoor experience extends students’ comfort zones and requires teamwork among the many challenges the November outdoors experience presents. The six-year old school was named for the founder of Outward Bound.

Among its unique programming, Brown also explained that student-led conferences with parents and advisors, three times a year, chart a student’s progress. Also, a senior must write a 20-page research paper.

Simultaneously to this rally, rallies were held with the other Expeditionary Learning Schools in the other boroughs and Brooklyn; 600 graduating seniors in all mailed their applications. Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies in Cobble Hill held a “cybermarch” in their auditorium to celebrate all-digital online applications. Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders in Bensonhurst is another Brooklyn participating school.

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