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Student Profiles

Aphrodite Megaris ‘15

Aphrodite Megaris ‘15
"BHSEC raised my expectations."

Aphrodite Megaris ‘15 comes to BHSEC from the Gifted and Talented Program at P.S. 122. For someone who admits to “getting a lot of work in middle school,” Aphrodite concedes that BHSEC is an even greater challenge.

BHSEC is unlike anything Aphrodite ever experienced, “the teachers really treat you like adults, like equals.” She credits her professors with transforming her education and the way she thinks. “The fact that my professors analyze why things happen, the fact that classes are so discussion based, it just keeps me intrigued.”

BHSEC’s academic environment opened up new doors for Aphrodite. “I used to feel like I needed to pick some sort of ordinary career, but I saw that I had a passion for helping people.” Her devotion to BHSEC and the opportunities it afforded her is reflected in her involvement on campus. Aphrodite spends her time volunteering for a wide variety of school functions. “I feel like it’s a give-back to the school,” she said.

“When I talk about BHSEC, I have a smile on my face.”

Declan McPherson '05

Declan McPherson
"From my first day at BHSEC, I was forced to achieve and pushed to do more than I thought I could." Declan McPherson is a 2005 graduate of Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) Manhattan.  Declan grew up in East Flatbush, NY and attended middle school at Lenox Academy in Carnasie, NY.  He was looking for a challenging high school experience and realized he would not find this at his local high school. BHSEC had just opened its doors and, after interviewing for a spot in the incoming class, he knew this was the school for him.

BHSEC had a profound impact on Declan’s personal and professional trajectory. As he explained, “BHSEC affords children a great opportunity to expand their horizons.  Beginning in the ninth grade, I grew academically and philosophically and BHSEC is solely to thank for my growth. As a young African American male, social statistics do not bode well for me. Had it been left to society’s expectation of my demographic, I should be a member of the prison population. Thankfully, BHSEC has helped me to become a young man who earned his Masters in Political Science at the age of 22. My outlook on life completely changed because of the courses I took.”

The faculty and students at BHSEC had a significant influence on Declan.  “At BHSEC I was given the chance to share a classroom with professors and students I might not otherwise have met. The teachers were not only instructors, but they were truly invested in students’ lives and our well being.” More than anything, BHSEC emphasized the importance of perseverance and patience. As Declan explained, “BHSEC teaches children that truly anything is possible through hard work.”

After graduating from BHSEC, Declan transferred all 60 of the Bard credits he earned at BHSEC to the New York Institute of Technology, where he graduated in two years with a bachelor's degree in English. In May of 2010, Declan earned a master's degree in Political Science from Brooklyn College. He is currently pursing a J.D. at Hofstra University. He hopes to become a law professor and legislative attorney after graduating. Declan credits BHSEC with his success: “I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today without having attended BHSEC. From my first day at BHSEC, I was forced to achieve and pushed to do more than I thought I could.”

Glendean Hamilton ‘09

Glendean Hamilton ‘09
“BHSEC is intense with a purpose, challenging with a vision.” Glendean Hamilton ‘09 is a graduate of BHSEC Manhattan. She double majored in government and education at Smith College. For the next two years, Glendean will be teaching in Boston as part of Teach for America.

Glendean came to BHSEC from the Richard R. Green Middle School in the Bronx. She found BHSEC’s environment to be transformative because the academic environment was one where intellectual freedom was valued. “Being able to ask questions of the texts, of the authors, and being able to question and challenge the professors, to know that your voice matters, that was something I grew into.”

Learning was loved and unceasing at BHSEC. “My classmates were always so into everything, they just ate up Kafka and Locke and Rousseau. There was truly a sense that knowledge was cool at BHSEC; it was cool to be reading a book. That love of reading permeated regular discussion at BHSEC. While hanging out you were still learning and having a discussion about your seminar reading. That made it an experience like no other.”

Glendean credits BHSEC with expanding her horizons in the realm of higher education. “As a first-generation college graduate, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of colleges. I didn’t understand the college application process and the financial aid process. BHSEC’s College Transfer Office made this information accessible.”

Offered a full tuition scholarship, Glendean enrolled at Smith College. She arrived to Smith with an impressive educational foundation. “I got a head start. My professors would ask, ‘What high school did you go to?’”

“The whole intensive writing curriculum at BHSEC changed my life because I learned to write. Before BHSEC, I felt that I knew English; I thought I was proficient, but at BHSEC I learned how to write theses, defend claims and find textual evidence. It wasn’t until I got to Smith that I realized, I’m a darn good writer because of BHSEC.”

During her second year at Smith, Glendean had an awakening. “I realized my public school experience was the exception to the rule that public schools are failing students, especially people of color. It became my personal mission to write policy and teach so that people can have the education I was fortunate to receive.” That year, she declared an education major. “I went to my professor and said, ‘I want to teach.’ I told him about my middle school experience, BHSEC, and how BHSEC impacted me.”

Upon graduating from Smith, Glendean was accepted to Teach for America. “Teach for America is an organization I want to align with because of their personal determination to closing the achievement gap in this country.” When asked if it’s important that students everywhere have an opportunity to attend a BHSEC, Glendean responded: “important seems like such a weak word for how passionate I feel that students should have an opportunity like BHSEC.” Glendean understood that BHSEC provided her with what is, in many ways, the most important aspect of a young adult’s life: education. However, she strongly believes that an education, like that provided at BHSEC, shouldn’t be a matter of luck and chance, it should be a fundamental right. “We should take a good education for granted. That’s what keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the morning, to make sure that BHSEC is no longer the school at the top of the hill, that schools like this are in every community, in every building.”

“One of the biggest strengths of the liberal arts education I received at BHSEC is that it has enabled me to be a thinker, to strategize and to plan.”

Jaclyn Olmos-Silverman ‘09

Jaclyn Olmos-Silverman ‘09
BHSEC “helped me become more well-rounded and helped me understand more about our society.” Jaclyn Olmos-Silverman is a 2009 graduate of BHSEC Manhattan who went on to study Engineering and Economics at Harvey Mudd College. She currently lives in Chicago, where she works as a risk analyst for General Electric (GE) in the Commercial Leadership Program. Prior to her job at GE Capital, Jaclyn was a Research Intern at the U.S. Naval Research Lab, where she fabricated and tested soft magnetic materials. She also did Research & Development as an intern with the Clorox Company, working on consumer products packaging.

Jaclyn was attracted to BHSEC because the rigorous early college curriculum felt like a good fit for her interests saying, “I thought the early college concept was great, and I wanted to be challenged.” She first heard of BHSEC through newspaper articles and began attending information sessions in the 7th grade.

The range of available courses enabled Jaclyn to take higher-level math and economics classes, such as calculus, chemistry, and microeconomics, which influenced her chosen fields of study at Harvey Mudd. Jaclyn’s strong interest in the STEM fields led her to develop an actuarial science independent study with a BHSEC Professor. Reflecting on this experience, Jaclyn says, “I had encouraging math and science professors who helped guide me towards the sciences. They exposed me to fields I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to explore.”

In addition to STEM classes, BHSEC’s liberal arts curriculum was of great use in shaping her skills and worldview. “I really enjoyed the seminar sequence,” Jaclyn recounts, “Reading and discussing the classics made me more aware, with a greater understanding of society, humanity and history.”

BHSEC’s intensive emphasis on writing made Jaclyn stand out in the four-year college she attended, and she notes that “BHSEC’s writing-intensive curriculum was to my advantage. My first year at Harvey Mudd, I was in a writing intensive class, and the professor kept mistaking me for a senior because my writing was so well developed.”

Johnny Garces ‘05

Johnny Garces ‘05
“If I’m at a position where I can give more to BHSEC, I would do everything for the school because BHSEC was that one pivot in my life that I needed.” Johnny Garces is a 2005 graduate of BHSEC Manhattan and a graduate of Middlebury College, where he majored in philosophy. After his undergraduate years, Garces entered the Peace Corps and served in Jordan.

When Garces arrived at BHSEC, he noticed great similarities and stark differences between BHSEC and his former middle school, William Cooper IS 73. The diversity at BHSEC mirrored that of his middle school, “there were kids from every walk of life and ethnicity in the huge building that was my middle school, and I got to experience that same diversity at BHSEC at a much smaller and intimate scale.” As for the differences, Garces considers the schools light-years away in terms of academics. “Before BHSEC my learning was very passive—rote memorization. You read something, you highlight the text, and then you write about it. However, at BHSEC, you really engage with the text.”

As a freshman at BHSEC, Garces recognized that BHSEC was different. “I kept hearing the year one students talk about Nietzsche, calculus … they talked about how much they had to work and how much they learned. I realized that I was in for a really interesting three years.”

After graduating from Middlebury in 2009, Garces entered the Peace Corps. “My decision to join the Peace Corps was a leap of faith. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Prior to joining, I had interned at a large profitable company, a safe zone. I could have used that opportunity to pursue a full-time job, but I decided to take a different path, a path that really spoke to me.”

Garces devoted three years to engaging Jordanian youth. “My goal was to ensure employment opportunities for the youth.” He had to find new, productive, and exciting ways to engage them. “I noticed that the students loved taking pictures and videos, so I wanted to transform their interests into something productive. I applied for funding to start a film academy.”

Garces did not let naysayers detract him from his goal. “I figured, we’ll make this work one way or another.” Having limited experience with film, Garces independently researched and studied the subject and eventually developed a unique curriculum from scratch. With funding from USAID, the program became a sustainable success that is running to this day. The program was so successful that Sundance even visited the schools.

What is Garces doing now? He’s working at a tech startup that is breaking down language barriers. With three languages other than English under his belt—Spanish, French, and Arabic—it seems like the right fit.

Kayla Thomas and Bryan Williams

Kayla Thomas and Bryan Williams
Ambitious, eager, and resilient are some adjectives that describe Kayla Thomas and Bryan Williams, two students who attend the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy.  Kayla and Bryan, both from the Bronx, NY, are enrolled in the Bard Early College at HCZ Promise Academy. The early college allows students to take a liberal arts college course of study and earn tuition-free college credits from Bard College concurrently with their high school studies. Kayla, a Junior in high school, and Bryan a Sophomore, each have been at HCZ Promise Academy for majority of their academic careers. Now, with graduation on the horizon, they have decided to prepare themselves for success in college by enrolling in the early college program. They each attest to the ways in which the Bard Early College has changed their perspectives on their education, the world around them, and their future goals.  

Before entering the Bard program, Kayla and Bryan, like many high school students, were able to successfully maneuver through class materials without putting in much effort.  Being in the Bard program challenged that habit, causing them to increase their academic ambitions and take great pride in the work they produced. “Before, if I had homework I would say, ‘I’m going to bust this out, I know I’m going to get 100’; with Bard it was like, ‘65, what’s that?’ So I took my time. And then I realized, this is actually work I can produce, I really have to work for my grade,” Kayla explained. Bryan added, “In English Language Arts (ELA) class we never had intimate conversations like those in the Bard program, and when we did, we only touched the surface. The work for regular ELA is easy, I don’t have to pay attention in class. At Bard I have to constantly be attentive.”

Kayla and Bryan’s ability to surmount academic obstacles and persevere made their successful completion of the pre-college courses all the more rewarding. Kayla described the academic struggle and long hours of work she had to put in, and the value she ultimately saw in the education, beyond the tuition-free college credits. “Before, I thought I’m just getting an associate’s degree. Now it’s like, wow, I can speak to adults, challenge them, and use these new words…I like that feeling. It feels more earned.” Bryan had a similar experience: “At first I thought Bard was going to look good on my transcript. Then Bard broadened my horizons – certain texts I didn’t expect to read, or conversations I didn’t expect to have, or for my writing to improve. All these skills I’ve learned at Bard.” Kayla and Bryan have both finished the pre-college program and will begin college courses this coming fall.

The Bard program challenged Kayla and Bryan academically, which impacted their performance in their traditional high school classes. As Kayla explained, “I became more focused and entitled to actually do my work, so my grades in other classes have improved.” Instead of rushing to complete assignments, she prefers to get work done thoroughly, and she takes pride in the work she hands in. Teachers on multiple occasions have told her they have noticed improvement in her performance. For Bryan, there was “a domino effect. Everything else falls in place because I’m doing better in the Bard program. Before, my highest grade in math was a 65, and I wasn’t interested in doing the work. Now my math score increased… because I was more focused in the Bard class.”

Thriving in the Bard program, as Kayla and Bryan are, would be difficult without the support of certain faculty. Both students highlighted that having extended access to Dr. McMorris, the program’s Academic Director, helped ensure their success. “When I was slacking, Dr. McMorris told us, if you want to be a Year 1 [college] student, you have to pass, and slacking is not an option…During lunch, after dinner, you’re able to contact Dr. McMorris anytime. We are able to text or email her.”

Bard has made a huge impact on Kayla’s and Bryan’s perspectives and goals. Kayla expressed that Bard has challenged her in numerous ways, allowing her to grow and revealing room for further development. “I feel like I’m not at the top yet, but I’m happy. I’m there, but I’m not there, I’ve still got some time. I’m waiting for that.” Bryan emphasized that Bard has truly been an eye-opener, “Before going into Bard I had the perception that everything was the same. When you get accepted into Bard you realize everything is not the same, you have to approach things with different perceptions and perspectives. I have an open mind, I’m able to do things better and view things differently.”

After graduating from Promise Academy and the early college program, Kayla hopes to attend Syracuse University and is interested in therapy and law as potential career paths. Bryan’s dream school is UCLA, and he is interested in majoring in neurology. He is also an avid football player, and is interested in a career in professional sports or medicine.


Lenina Mortimer ‘03

Lenina Mortimer ‘03
“I believe in BHSEC's core values. It provided me a platform to go to school, to learn.” Born in Brooklyn to parents of Haitian descent, Lenina Mortimer is a graduate of BHSEC Manhattan’s inaugural class, the Class of 2003. In 2006, she graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.S. in biology and, in 2010, she graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in journalism. Lenina works as a multimedia producer and intends to begin graduate studies next year.

Lenina transferred to BHSEC after her sophomore year at Midwood High School in Brooklyn. "I loved it at Midwood. I was on the track team, I was doing well—things were really good." But, she mentions, "for all intents and purposes, I had already finished high school at Midwood. I was taking accelerated classes. There was nothing else for me to do. BHSEC came at an opportune moment, it filled in the gap about what to do next." 

When she arrived at BHSEC, Lenina was immersed in the college curriculum right away. The new environment and the new academic standards changed her outlook on learning. "The experience as a whole was so impactful. People cared about what I had to say." One memory especially stands out for being outside of the norm: early during her first semester at BHSEC, Lenina's seminar professor had lunch with the class. "It really struck me; I never had lunch with a professor. Seeing professors interact with students, that was different. It broke every norm."

Lenina’s peers shared her thirst for knowledge. "We were all very inquisitive and we came from very different backgrounds. What linked us was our interest in things and learning." 

After graduating from BHSEC, Lenina enrolled in Stony Brook University, where she transferred all 60 of her BHSEC credits. Lenina went from being part of a small cohort of students at BHSEC to being part of a large undergraduate class at the university. "The biggest difference between BHSEC and Stony Brook that I noticed was the class size. At BHSEC, I knew everyone and my professor knew me, but at Stony Brook, I didn't know my professors and my professors didn't know me." Although Stony Brook was radically different than BHSEC, BHSEC adequately prepared Lenina for the upper level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes necessary for her biology major at Stony Brook. "I took a lot of STEM courses at BHSEC, from Calc III to Chemistry. I was well prepared."

Although she had her goals set on a career in medicine, a post-undergraduate work experience changed her future plans. Her first job out of Stony Brook was an internship at a magazine that sparked her interest in studying journalism. After that internship, Lenina decided she wanted a change. She then enrolled in Brooklyn College and majored in journalism.

In her journalism career, Lenina has written articles and covered topics on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from arts and culture to politics. She has her mind set on being a leader in an international media organization.

Lenina is now a board member of the BHSEC Manhattan alumni association and works actively with a core group of graduates to organize events and keep alumni connected. "BHSEC was home—it's still home today. That’s why I keep coming back." 

Mamfatou Baldeh '14

Mamfatou Baldeh
“Although my parents wanted me to go to college, it was theoretical. Being at BHSEC made me realize that I can do college, and I can do well.” Mamfatou Baldeh, who graduated in 2014 from BHSEC Queens, heard about BHSEC from a friend in her middle school, MS 118 in the Bronx. She knew the basics: that you could earn college credits and an AA degree. When she started in 2010, she knew she was a part of something special.

“The moment I realized this was something bigger,” she said, “was when my dad was talking about it and telling some family friends. They were so fascinated by it and I felt great about it. I knew that I might be able to transfer over all these credits; but at that moment, I felt like I really knew that it was special.

Mamfatou is currently in her freshman year at Columbia University, where she appreciates the preparation she received from Bard. “I got so many skills from dealing with the intensity of BHSEC. I know so much better, now, how to handle heavy workloads. I would have been drowning now and freaking out about it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I know how to handle it.” 

Mamfatou has been focused on her academics for her whole life. Her family had always stressed education and going to college. “Back then in middle school, I was getting all 90s and above. But when I got to my first year at Bard, I got a B+ and I cried over it! I was used to being at that A standard, and I thought it would be a breeze to get As there too.” She knew that BHSEC was going to push her to levels that she hadn’t reached before, and she was ready for it. 

At Columbia, Mamfatou continues to challenge herself, but does express her gratitude for all the growth she experienced at BHSEC. She credits the nurturing environment at BHSEC for her smooth transition to Columbia. “ It is such a different atmosphere. Here, you’re kind of left on your own. Being here and seeing that people just expect you to go off and be independent made me appreciate all the support I received at BHSEC. They love you and they want to help you. I had a great support system with all my professors and guidance counselors and even the Dean and Principal. They all wanted to get to know you and help you with whatever they could help you with.”

In addition to BHSEC’s resources and extensive support systems, the liberal arts and seminar class styles introduced new perspectives and options, Mamfatou says. “When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a doctor, and then I got to BHSEC and was exposed to the seminar style classes and the readings we were doing. It was then I realized I like humanities.” The learning at BHSEC very much stressed the importance of community and the value in each individual’s voice. “In seminar,” she says, “we’d sit in a circle, see one another, and talk to each other. That’s where I realized that that’s the kind of thing that I like.” She references her experiences in seminar when looking for classes at Columbia that fit her best. 

For Mamfatou, BHSEC’s passionate faculty made a real difference in how she approached the material. “One of my favorite classes at BHSEC was my globalization class with Professor Hymson—I loved her. I find it really comparable to a class I'm taking now: my modern Caribbean class.” What attracted her to both classes, she says, was that both professors genuinely seemed to like what they were` teaching, and showed that they are human just like their students. “The professors at BHSEC genuinely like what they are teaching. It’s not just a job.”

Mamfatou is entering her second semester at Columbia, and feeling confident in doing so. “It’s definitely comparable—I just know how to handle it. I’ve done it. That’s why it’s an easier transition. I’ve done this before, and it’s the same standards they’re holding us to.” Mamfatou is prepared for the work ahead of her at Columbia, and is grateful for the head start she received at BHSEC Queens. 

“I did a lot of learning about how I learn.  I learned a lot about myself as a student, and that helped me to go forward.” 

Nicholas Gumas ‘11

Nicholas Gumas ‘11
“BHSEC’s small class sizes and discussions were invaluable.”

Nick Gumas came to BHSEC Manhattan from the United Nations International School. He is currently enrolled at the George Washington University and is majoring in political science with a focus on public policy.

Nick had his eyes set on BHSEC during the high school admission process. BHSEC was his top choice, one of two schools he applied to. He heard of BHSEC from a friend “who went on and on” about the school. Soon enough, Nick fell in love with the school, too. 

Nick believes that BHSEC’s academic culture, one that promotes inquiry and discussion, contributes to a thriving community. “Everyone here challenges you intellectually, our conversations rotated around current events or readings. The environment was very warm and accepting—it was a really great place to learn.”

Nick credits BHSEC’s engaged and knowledgeable professors with setting the stage for an atmosphere of learning. “Professors are attentive here at BHSEC, and that obviously benefits the students. More people are engaged in class discussions and have thoughtful things to say.” He fondly remembers discussions about postmodernism; “it was always a lively debate, never dull, never boring.” Like everyone, Nick favored some classes and not others, but he never felt alienated from a topic. “I genuinely enjoyed materials taught to me, even things that I wasn’t interested in were made interesting by the professors.”

Although Nick had always been passionate about politics, his experience at BHSEC cemented his views. “I was never much interested in education policy until going to BHSEC and then a large university. Interacting with students who have different high school backgrounds, you realize your experience at BHSEC is something very few people have the opportunity to experience. After hearing their stories, I became concerned and passionate about education policy.”

Since leaving BHSEC, Nick has become involved in politics. In New York, he interned at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and, while in Washington, Nick has worked at Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office and the Human Rights Campaign. He was also chosen to be the student speaker at the United for Marriage Rally, organized by the Human Rights Campaign and United for Marriage. Once he graduates from George Washington, Nick has his eyes set on law school and public office. 

Nyla Rock-Vanloo ‘03

Nyla Rock-Vanloo ‘03
"BHSEC provides an intellectual environment where students are challenged in untraditional ways." Nyla Rock-Vanloo is a 2003 graduate of BHSEC Manhattan. After graduating from BHSEC, Nyla enrolled in Agnes Scott College, where she majored in Psychology. She is pursuing a career in social services and has a background in providing services to children with developmental disabilities. For the past year, Nyla has worked with homeless adults who have mental illnesses.

Unlike Nyla’s previous educational experiences, love of learning and engagement in the classroom was the norm at BHSEC. “I came from an environment where learning was rote and regimented and I didn’t have the opportunity to be challenged in a way where I explored my own intellect.” Learning how to think critically was the cornerstone of Nyla’s BHSEC education. She was not told what to learn or how to interpret what she learned; she had to think. “I was given space to learn how to write and how to think. I wrote and rewrote papers until I was able to go beyond the context of the work and explore who I was within the work I was reading.”

Nyla still remembers much about BHSEC’s classroom experience. Although years have passed since she graduated, Nyla has many fond memories of Seminar and a class she took called Gender and Sexuality. “I learned to write in Seminar, and we read difficult texts like Freud, and Marx. I still have those books today.” Nyla remembers her Gender and Sexuality class because of the hands-on nature of the coursework. “It was an interesting class where we went out a did a lot of on-the-street projects. I had never been exposed to studying gender and sexuality, and I appreciate that I now have an intellectual perspective on the topic, rather than a perspective influence by religion or popular culture.”

Nyla credits her BHSEC professors with setting the stage for an environment where learning was of paramount importance. Like the students, the professors at BHSEC were learning and conducting research in their own fields as well; they were scholars who had a passion for the subject matter. “Professors at BHSEC love their work so much. They model what it means to be invested in their work and be intellectually challenged. We were a very tight-knit group of people.”

BHSEC not only changed the way Nyla read, wrote, and thought, but it also provided the seed for her future career goals.  Nyla’s interest in Psychology was sparked by a lecture given at the school by a psychiatrist on teen suicide in the Navajo nation tribe. “That day, I was inspired to work with people who have mental illness, but it took me a while to find the work that I wanted to do… I finally decided on social work.”

In summarizing her experience, Nyla says, “BHSEC provides an intellectual environment where students are challenged in untraditional ways. I became a critical thinker and was able to recognize problems from many different perspectives. The school prepares you for some of best colleges in the country. I would send my children to BHSEC.”

Olga Carmona '03

Olga Carmona
"I had challenging professors who were caring and committed to see me succeed" Olga Carmona grew up in Spanish Harlem. She learned about Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) through a postcard in the mail. At the time, she was attending a parochial school on a full scholarship. Olga was always a dedicated student but was never challenged. The opportunity to graduate with an Associates Degree from Bard College for free convinced her to transfer to BHSEC. Her mother was a single parent on public assistance with three children; the early college provided an un-paralleled opportunity for Olga to gain access to a college education.

Although she struggled at first, Olga managed to pick up her grades with the help of her professors and peers and graduated in 2003 with an Associates Degree from Bard. Although her early grades were not good, the prospect of the associate’s degree kept her motivated. Once she earned the degree, she was determined to transfer every single credit and save as much money as possible, which is what she did by continuing her studies at Bard College. Arriving at college with only a graduation gift of $50, Olga graduated in two years from Bard with a Bachelor’s Degree, and a higher GPA than the one she had at BHSEC. She was the first in her family to leave her neighborhood and the first in her family to graduate from college.

After college graduation, Olga returned to BHSEC as an admissions coordinator, while pursing a Master of Science Degree in Urban Affairs at Hunter College. She currently co-directs admissions for BHSEC Queens, where she leads efforts to recruit a diverse student body. “It was really important for me to come back to BHSEC to make sure that I would be able to find students who are in similar situations as I was to attend BHSEC. Recruiting a diverse student body, especially from low-income families, and making sure these families know about this great opportunity is why I'm still at BHSEC,” she explained.

BHSEC was a life-changing experience for Olga. As she explained, “If it wasn't for BHSEC, my life would have taken a different route. Coming from a poor family, a $40,000 price tag for a year in college is impossible. If you multiply that by four, it's just unimaginable. However, BHSEC did more for me than save me a lot of money - it challenged me and kept me focused on my school work despite everything else that was happening around me. There were a lot of obstacles and distractions outside of school but the fact that I had challenging professors who were caring and committed to see me succeed was a nice formula for my success.”

In Olga’s free time, she participates in a college mentoring program in Spanish Harlem through the East Harlem Tutorial Program. She helps a 12th grade student navigate the college application process. During the sessions, Olga is constantly grateful for her BHSEC education. “I am always reminded how lucky I am to have the opportunity to have attended BHSEC. The challenges that these students face are enormous. I wish we could have more BHSEC's and more early colleges to accommodate more students.” 

Olivia Winn '10

Olivia Winn
“I came out of BHSEC feeling much more confident in my own abilities, feeing like I had been given the tools to do whatever I wanted” Olivia Winn is a 2010 graduate of BHSEC Manhattan. She is currently a student at the Columbia University School of Engineering, where she is majoring in Computer Science. After Columbia, Olivia intends to enroll in a Computer Science PhD program. 

Olivia was interested in attending BHSEC because of the unique curriculum and the positive learning environment. "My initial interest in BHSEC stemmed from getting an associate's degree. I also liked how small the school was and I liked the people I talked to." Although she came to BHSEC with a strong interest in the sciences, Olivia thought the intensive writing curriculum would be to her benefit, as she wanted to improve her writing skills. 

From the beginning, Olivia noticed a strong sense of community and belonging at BHSEC. As a Freshman, she remembers the school administration and faculty being very present. "It didn't take very long to meet everyone and it very quickly felt like a community." Her peers were also a motivating factor for her success. “Being with friends who are really hard working and who strive for the best gives you a cushion to fall back’s a great support network.”

Olivia believes the BHSEC's small class sizes were crucial to the education she received. "The small classes were very beneficial because you got to know everyone and you were able to connect with everyone." She has fond memories of a Physics class she enrolled in Year 2 of the college program, where she was one of five students in the class. "The teacher would go through equations with us and made us come up with everything on our own.” The class was so productive that in the coming semester, all five students began an independent study in Physics. 

Olivia credits BHSEC with making her into the writer she is today. “I came to BHSEC terribly shy, a good student but not really knowing how to study, how to sit down, and how to write a rough draft of an essay and fix it.” Through BHSEC, she honed her skills; this became apparent when she enrolled at Columbia University. As an example, Olivia excelled in a writing intensive class. Olivia recalls that after the first essay was assigned, the professor called her into his office because she had gotten the only A+ in the class. “He said ‘I know you haven’t learned all of this in college, what high school did you come from?’ He was really impressed." 

Since September of 2012, Olivia has worked at the Columbia Lab for Vision and Graphics. In the summer of 2013, she began doing independent research at the lab. Her research focuses on approximating the curvature of animal eyes. “The original work at the lab focused on human eyes in images - how to map the reflections in the eyes into a whole new image that could then be used for all sorts of different purposes. Now I’m researching the same question using animal eyes. Specifically, I'm focusing on how to approximate the curvature of an unknown eye shape in order to map the reflection on it."

Olivia believes her solid grounding in the liberal arts and sciences during her time at BHSEC has set her up for a successful career in the sciences. "It's really important for students to learn as much as they can in as wide a breadth of subjects and for as long as possible. Science isn't absolute - you have to dissect arguments, you have to read critically, you have to write scientific papers, you have to communicate with people. You can’t do that without a liberal education.”

For Olivia and her friends BHSEC has been “an incredible, life-changing experience.”

Sherman Fabes '09

Sherman Fabes
"The lasting effects of my BHSEC education cannot be overemphasized...the critical thinking skills and study skills I acquired at BHSEC made it possible for me to thrive at the Missouri School of Journalism and win an Emmy Award very early in my career.” Sherman Fabes earned his Associate in Arts degree from BHSEC Manhattan in 2009 and a Bachelor of Journalism degree with a dual emphasis in Broadcast Journalism and Strategic Communication from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 2013. 

The week following his graduation from the University of Missouri’s nationally ranked Missouri School of Journalism, Sherman started his job at the MLB Network, an American television sports channel dedicated to baseball. At MLB Network, Sherman produced and edited montages, essay features, high-end teases, on-air talent segments, highlights, sound packages and miscellaneous production elements, for various shows. In June 2015, Sherman won an Emmy Award for his work on MLB Tonight. MLB Tonight was recognized by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences as the "Outstanding Daily Sports Studio Show" in 2015.

Currently, Sherman is an Associate Producer for the CBS Sports Network where he works on National Football League, college football and college basketball coverage. He has been an integral part of the launch of Time to Schein, a sports talk show with host Adam Schein.

To this day, Sherman says the most difficult challenge he ever faced was getting through high school.

“I went to BHSEC because my parents thought it would be good for me. I had been deemed ‘practically illiterate’ by grade school and middle school teachers, and was a self-described sports nerd. I was forever playing catch up when it came to schoolwork. While I strongly disliked reading and writing, I loved being able to express my opinions.

It was at BHSEC that I actually learned how to read, write, think and cogently and persuasively express my opinions. The majority of credit for these accomplishments goes to my 9th grade English professor and BHSEC’s founding principal, Ray Peterson. The lasting effects of my BHSEC education cannot be overemphasized."

Sherman transferred all of his credits to the University of Missouri, which allowed him to take full advantage of what the university had to offer. He explained, "Although I walked out of BHSEC with a GPA closer to 1.0 than to 4.0, the critical thinking skills and study skills I acquired at BHSEC made it possible for me to thrive at the Missouri School of Journalism and win an Emmy Award ridiculously early in my career.”

Sherman expressed his belief that the best reporters, producers, journalists, and communicators are well-rounded. He explained: “Being well-rounded is not about the amount of activities and organizations you have on a resumé, but rather the leadership roles you take on in your life and your commitment and engagement with the things you love to do. I learned all about leadership and community engagement at Mizzou. Without BHSEC, my ability to engage and assume leadership roles at college would not have been possible.” 

BHSEC helped Sherman achieve his dream job. “It has been my dream to be engaged in the sports field for as long as I can remember, and, while I didn’t understand BHSEC’s  impact on me at the time, looking back, I fully credit BHSEC for helping me develop so many of the skills I needed to make my dream come true,” he said.

Xavier Edwards ‘14

Xavier Edwards ‘14
“At BHSEC, I realized after a while that my thinking was different.” Xavier is a rising year two student at BHSEC Queens and anticipates graduating in the spring of 2014. When Xavier came to BHSEC, he found himself in an exciting, lively environment. “My old school was 100 percent African American, so coming to BHSEC and finding a melting pot of all races and backgrounds was so wonderful. I had never experienced that before.” 

For BHSEC students, thinking does not occur within the confines of classroom walls. “We’re on the train and we’re talking about Socrates—discussion over a point made by a professor never stays in the classroom.” According to Xavier, students at BHSEC truly love learning. “We all share that common ground, we all love learning. You couldn’t thrive here without it. When you have that love for learning, it doesn’t matter what the subject is because all subjects come together in some shape or form.” 

BHSEC’s small, intensive classes were key to Xavier’s academic success. He considers BHSEC to be a place where intellectual discussion is of paramount importance, and a place where faculty and students see each other as equals. “Professors are engaging us and having a discussion with us like we’re peers.”

Xavier’s love for learning mirrors his love for the community. He has been an active member of the BHSEC community. Just to name a few areas of involvement, he has served as a peer tutor, peer mediator, student ambassador, is the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and serves as the Class of 2014 administrative liaison. 

One of the accomplishments Xavier feels most proud of is the BHSEC Diversity Initiative. Xavier saw that the school could do more to promote diversity, and so he stepped up to the plate and took initiative by himself. Xavier approached the director of admission and expressed his interest in starting a diversity initiative. “I had no idea where to begin but I knew I wanted something to happen.” In a short time, the program got rolling. “We started calling schools, focusing on the seventh grade. We started doing site visits and, beginning this fall, we’re going to assess the students.” 

Xavier is excited to attend a liberal arts college like BHSEC in the near future. He intends to major in political science and communications at a four-year institution.