This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Notebook would like to welcome its new blogger, Peak (Dominique) Johnson. Peak interned with us last year, and begins his blog by reflecting on his experience with the high school selection process.
I am a graduate of Delaware Valley Charter High School, class of 2007. I attend the Community College of Philadelphia where I am finishing up the requirements for my liberal arts degree.
The only problems that plagued me when trying to get into a good high school were the irresponsible actions of my middle school counselor, which limited me from getting into the school of my choosing.
When in middle school (I attended Wakisha Charter School at 12th and Vine; it has since moved), I completed my high school application in 8th grade and handed it to my school counselor. I wanted to attend the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. I chose this as my ideal high school because of the creative writing courses that included both fiction and journalism writing. CAPA had participated in Wakisha’s high school fair when I was in 7th grade. Imagine how upset my mother and I were when we found out that my high school application had been lost.
The counselor, whose name escapes me, was very apologetic, but could do nothing and did nothing more. She had simply misplaced the papers. My mother and I found out one day when we went to school and asked why it was taking so long for a response to come from the school.
The week following my mother searched for schools that were not too far from home and that I could get to easily. The first was Roxborough High. She had noticed it one day when she was in the area. When we arrived at Roxborough to make an appointment we were kindly turned away because I was not in their zip code. There were, however, other kids who had the same zip code as me and were easily accepted. I did not learn about this until after finding a high school, Delaware Valley Charter High.
My mother came across that school one day when searching for charter schools via the School District of Philadelphia website. The process of getting into Delaware Valley was not that hard. The then-principal, Theodore Kaufman, interviewed me and before I knew it I was accepted.
Mr. Kaufman was a short, balding man. When we met him for the first time, he invited me and my mother into one of the school offices where the interview was to proceed. My mother and I sat across from Mr. Kaufman as he begun to ask a series of questions. Why I chose to come to Delaware Valley Charter High School? What I hoped to get from attending? Everything was pretty straightforward. He even offered to tutor me in math, though I never did take him up on this offer. Mr. Kaufman concluded the interview by saying that I was accepted and handing me a packet that contained the dress code, rules, and regulations. I entered Delaware Valley Charter High School that fall.
I wish I knew more about high schools in general before 8th grade. I think around the beginning of 6th grade, I actually thought by 8th grade that I would be finished with school entirely. I didn’t really know what came next and wish that I had applied to more high schools and not just CAPA. If my application had been submitted and I had been accepted, I think that I would have learned a great deal more at CAPA than I did while attending Delaware Valley.