Perceptions of SLA at other Middle Schools

Lauren Nicolella

Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Nicolella

Frantically finishing essays, attending open houses, and reading statistics given in a booklet are some of the staples of the overwhelming high school application process. Families prepare to attend SLA so they can get a feel of the atmosphere and learning environment.

By the time they are accepted to SLA, prospective students understand that the school is different. But what are their impressions before freshman year? What ideas — both true and false — are floating around Philadelphia? That’s where Program Coordinator Jeremy Spry comes in.

In order to personalize their connection to prospective students, high schools gauge interest by visiting middle schools. Most of the staff members go out to schools to present information about the school, but Spry is typically the person who explains all things SLA. However, SLA can only do so much to inform prospective applicants about the school.

Based on interviews with current 8th and 9th graders, students’ perceptions depend on what their middle school is like. Teachers, counselors, and fellow students tend to inform others of what they hear, especially when it comes to interest in a high school.  

Science Leadership Academy is already a part of the minority, being a smaller project-based school with a large community, and it is one of the few high schools in Philadelphia to require an interview.

Current freshman Guy Bayan came from Stratford Friends School, which is located in  Newtown Square, PA. Given that Stratford Friends is about half the size of SLA, Bayan had to acclimate himself to a school that is much larger and more diverse than he was used to.

“I already knew that SLA was very racially diverse. Also, it was close to my home and because it is a science-oriented, project-based high school, it spiked my interest,” said Bayan.

He expanded further on what interested him, and how that influenced his decision.

“Some of the positive things I heard were SLA’s ninety-something college acceptance rate,” Bayan explained.

The active artist was pleasantly surprised by the teaching style of the SLA staff. He enjoys the way every teacher is able to engage everyone in the class, especially English teacher–among other things–Matt Kay. However, not everything he heard about SLA was flattering.

“The negatives I heard is that students did drugs,” Bayan stated.

He heard about this while attending camp, amongst the talk of Philly high schools.

Although the opinions of students who have already gone through the process were important, it was crucial to get the stance of a current prospective student.

Eighth-grader Lilly Squillaciotti is currently in the process of applying to high schools and has been considering SLA as one of her choices. She attends William M. Meredith Elementary School. Her teachers and counselors provided her with some basic knowledge about SLA.

“I’ve heard it’s a really great school if you’re creative and work well with others, but I’ve also heard it’s in an inconvenient spot and harder to get into,” Squillaciotti explained.

Squillaciotti also mentioned that Meredith tells the students that Center City is the better campus, but did not elaborate further beyond the expectations and criteria she’s heard about.  

Another student who ended up deciding on SLA Center City was freshman Yohanna Heyer. Heyer attended Masterman Middle School and described how it was a different scene compared to her old one.

“[SLA] felt more welcoming and relaxed than my previous [school],” she explained. “But I also heard it was easy. That stays true for certain things, but benchmarks do take up a lot of work.”

It’s always important to seek out your own opinions and ideas about somewhere, because it may turn out to be something completely unexpected. There are a lot of students who did not expect to attend SLA, figured out that it was one of the best choices they could have made for themselves.

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