Roselyn Jimenez, 12, was on the verge of tears when she entered the cafeteria packed with students and school booths for the Manhattan high school fair. “I don’t want to be here,” she said.
Jimenez said she was overwhelmed partly at the chaos in the room but also, in a larger sense, at the thought of growing up. “I’m not ready for high school,” she said. “It’s scary.”
Jimenez said that most of her friends at M.S. 319 want to go to George Washington High School, but she doesn’t. “They think it’s going to be like middle school,” she said. But she thinks George Washington would be much different from middle school. “It has a lot of gangs,” she said.
Before the fair, Jimenez said, she didn’t know what high school she wanted to go to, or even what questions to ask to find out. Her mother, Ingrid Mota, pulled her from Inwood Academy Charter School this year and moved her to M.S. 319 because she didn’t think her daughter was learning enough. “She was having problems with other girls, like gossip, he-said, she-said,” said Mota.
Because of the change in middle schools, Jimenez said, she still hadn’t met her counselor at M.S. 319, and hadn’t received any guidance at school for how to apply to high schools.
Jimenez said her favorite school activity is drawing, but she had not kept any of her drawings to put into a portfolio required for the schools specializing in art.
Jimenez saw the “uniform school” sign taped above the New York Lab’s School’s booth and stepped backward. She shook her head and said, “No.” But her mom approached the booth anyway, even as her daughter — with four earrings in one ear, color added to her hair, stretch pants and a black sports jacket — refused to come any closer.
At the booth for the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, student Alec Cruz, a junior, immediately read Jimenez’s body language and said, “You’re not that into this, are you?” Cruz ended up chatting with Jimenez, offering stories about how the school offers bonfires, games, and other programs to help ninth graders acclimate.
“It sounds cool. They take the new kids and help them bond with each other,” said Jimenez.
Socializing is something Jimenez prides herself on. She sent text messages frequently during the fair and said she has more than 6,000 friends and followers on Facebook. “They call me Facebook famous,” Jimenez said.
A social connection finally drew Jimenez’s interest in a school. When she saw the booth for the Global Language Collaborative, a high school on the Upper West Side, she remembered that a friend had attended the school and gone on a trip with teachers and students to China.
“I love traveling. It’s exciting because you’re in a new place,” said Jimenez. She has already visited the Dominican Republic with her family and toured the American South with her sister and cousin, where she got to see Dolly Parton. Based on that, she said she liked Global Language Collaborative. Maybe, she said, she’d go on some cool trips in high school.
Mota looked up, as if thanking the heavens, and said, “At least she likes one school.”
Oliver Morrison is a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.