Says Jaylyn, "Being in a small environment (with fewer students and more teachers) there's theres teachers there, always willing to help at all times, so thats really helpful."
That's not the only thing that sets Jaylyn's school apart from most New York City public schools. Founders, five years ago, wanted to make it small, with just over 300 students college-oriented and just for girls.
"Single-sex education was an opportunity that was available to girls in affluent communities in parochial communities or Yeshiva communities, but not for kids in the inner city," says Ann Tisch, a school founder, "and I thought that was important to offer inner-city students and parents that choice."
Says principal Judith Scott, "The message here is that its cool to be smart, and that well help you be smart, and that being smart and doing well in school is not something youre born with; its something that everybody works towards."
It was just what Jaylyn and her mother were looking for.
Says Jaylyn, "I think it is helpful if its an all-girl environment, because you dont have that fear of. 'If I say something, will he make fun of me?' or something like that."
Adds Vergina Sims, Jaylyn's mother, "I didnt want her to fall between the cracks. I didnt want her to be around children who were misbehaving and making it very difficult for those who wanted to learn, and I know Jaylyn was always very studious."
Like most of the graduates, Monica Diaz will be the first in her family to go to college.
Recalls Monica, "I had a lot of problems with the boys in my other public school and that really attracted me to this school."
Says her mother, Veronica Diaz, "I didnt think the public school had what it took to offer her a chance. But the all-girls school did it, and they did it for a lot of girls. They made it possible."
Despite its impressive record, the young womens leadership school has its critics. Three New York civil rights groups filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education against the school when it opened.
Ironically, one of those groups was the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
"It violates New York City law. It violates Title IX, and it violates the 14th amendment to the Contitution. And that was our complaint then, and its still the case," says Nancy Millar of New York NOW. "We, as taxpayers, have to decide whether we want to endorse segregation and endorse separating boys and girls."
The Department of Education has yet to act on the complaint, and the school recently found a new champion. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton just introduced an amendment to allow funding of more single-sex schools, citing the Harlem school's success.
"In our amendment," says Clinton, "we say there have to be guidelines. This cannot be a blank check to go back to segregation of any sort. We encourage people to open schools for both boys and girls, if they think that would meet a need in their community."
As the young women in New York prepare for graduation, another girls-only school is getting under way in Chicago, riding on the coattails of some rare good news from Spanish Harlem.
"I feel ready for college," says Jaylyn Morris. "I'm not really worried. I know its going to be hard, but I just feel well prepared, and Im ready, and thats, maybe, part of the school preparing us so well."
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