By Alanna Levine and Rachel Hoffman
She pulls into the senior lot at 8:45 a.m., grabs her backpack from the rear seat of her new car, and complains about the two minute commute from the parking lot to the high school entrance. When she walks through the doors, she greets her friend with an iced coffee, and the two walk to their first period class together, arriving five minutes early.
Minutes away, another student gets off the school bus, takes out her student ID card, and gets in a queue behind her peers. They wait on a long line of students, who all have to put their bags through scanners and walk through metal detectors very similar to those found at airport security checks. They are often late to class as a result.
These scenarios are everyday occurrences at two very different Long Island high schools, only 8.7 miles and 20 minutes apart. Jericho High School, known for its prevailing academic excellence, and Hempstead High School, known for providing its students with assistance for daily needs, have more in common than one would expect: both are much more than their perceived stereotypes.
Former Principal of the College Preparatory Academy for Math and Science in the Hempstead School District and current Vice Principal of Jericho High School, Dr. Dagoberto Artiles has a clear idea of the major differences between the two schools.
“The most significant difference is the socioeconomics,” Artiles said since he maintains that “race doesn’t matter when it comes to academic achievement.”
“Socioeconomics is something that Hempstead High School knows very well,” said Hempstead guidance counselor Ms. Graham-Alexander. “A lot of times, basic things that students would have are not affordable for this community. There are multiple generations living in one home, and we have a high population of students who are homeless or in foster care. With those issues at stake, the basic needs take precedent over their education. Food and shelter are really what is on their minds, and this makes it really difficult to navigate getting an education.”
In a survey of Jericho students, 68 percent of respondents said that they believe Jericho High School is well above or above average academically when compared to other Nassau County high schools, while 47 percent believe Hempstead is below average or well below average. Yet many students at Hempstead excel academically. Hempstead class of 2014 valedictorian Karen Lopez said that statistics don’t always “take into account the potential that lies within particular people.”
Jericho class of 2014 valedictorian Ben Kronengold understands the impact of socioeconomics on education.
“In general, I think neighborhoods with more income can provide resources for students to meet high academic standards, be they public in-school resources or private classes and tutors,” he said.
Artiles believes in the power of education. “Education is about making better people.” Despite their differences, Hempstead High School and Jericho High School both strive to do just that for their students.
For more from The JerEcho, visit www.jerecho.org.