What’s the secret to getting into SLA?

Sanaa Scott-Wheeler

Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lehmann

Science Leadership Academy is a school with the same set of core values but two different locations, Center City and West Philadelphia. Incoming students sometimes prefer one campus over the other, but the question is: Is there a strategy to get into one campus over the other?

Every year Science Leadership Academy gets over 1,000 applicants from all over the city. Current SLA CC and SLA @ Beeber students gather to do interviews for prospective students. When only the Center City campus existed, students were applying for only 120 slots each year. With the founding of SLA @Beeber, that number doubled.

¨ Generally, we get about 40% of the applicants to apply to only Center City, 45% applies to both schools, and 15% applies only to Beeber. We’ve done over 60 elementary/middle school visits, we do open houses and shadows. We work with the guidance counselors to make sure that students are aware of both opportunities,¨  said  Science Leadership Academy Center City founding principal Chris Lehmann.

“I was told most high schools only accept A’s and B’s on report cards but I chose SLA as my first choice because of the different teaching styles of teaching and the creativity, I fell in love with the school when I shadowed so I knew I had to go,” said Mackenzie Hopkins, a junior at the center city campus.

When applying to high schools I was told to get all A’s and have good attendance” Simone Marant an SLA junior stated during an interview, “both my brother and sister went to the center city campus so it was natural that I would go to school there”.

Inside the interview, current SLA or SLA @ Beeber students are paired with a teacher teaching at either campus. Each interview consists of set list questions, including ¨How can you make this environment a better place?¨

Students are also asked to bring in a project that means something to them. The interview is an opportunity to see who is a good fit for the school.

¨The interview allows us to find really wonderful kids,¨ Lehmann continued. He recognized that the most academically successful students are not guaranteed admission.

Few public schools in the district have the project-based learning model SLA offers or the resources and connections SLA has access to; Laptops, The Franklin Institute, Drexel scholars program. For students, SLA is more than just a school it is an opportunity for a better education.

“I love the sense of freedom. Everyone just does their own thing” said Kassie Thompson, a student at SLA Beeber, “It’s not an abnormal occurrence to see so much diversity and that’s so comforting considering we live in a society that rejects authenticity. I love that it’s a safe haven for LGBTQ+ people, gifted people, people of color, people who may not see their potential but have it, said Thompson. She continues by saying, “I think both campuses are unique in curriculum and student body within their own ways. I was really just interested in going to the school overall.

¨A student who has straight A´s and isn’t interested in engaging with us or the kind of learning we do would be better off at a different school. There is a better school for them. A student with a B average but comes in and wows us and shows that they understand what an inquiry-driven learning is, that matters.¨ Lehmann also emphasized that SLA believes deeply in seeing the whole person, not a student academically.

¨There is no hidden process to this, We look at the whole picture of the student and try to do the best we can to match them with preferences.¨ said Lehmann

I decided to apply to SLA CC because I wanted to be in the city atmosphere and the building and the teachers I had met seemed like the best fit for the person I am, Said Louisa Strohm a junior at SLA center city.  “I think they will place you where they think you would fit best”. Strohm finished by saying.

There is no strategy set in stone for how to get into one campus, however, good advice would be to only apply to the campus you would like to go to and present your knowledge of the core values of SLA in the interview.

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