Thursday, July 05, 2007

The High School Kinship of Cristal and Queen

A beautiful story of two best friends, a Hispanic and African-American girl, who make their way to college:

For four years now, Queen and Cristal have been a team: two teenage girls who are striving to make something of themselves in the face of tremendous adversity.

They graduated together yesterday from the High School of International Business and Finance, a duo who beat the odds in a school system where despite improvements, only 50 percent of high school students graduated on time last June, according to state statistics.

Cristal, who is 18, is the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma. Queen is the first of seven children — she has two older brothers — to graduate.

How they did it is a story of two outsiders who found each other in one of the small schools the city has turned to in an attempt to break up large high schools that, with graduation rates of 25 to 40 percent, became known as factories of failure.

Queen and Cristal’s school, with roughly 700 students, is one of four high schools in what had been the severely overcrowded, failing George Washington High School, in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood. The two girls are exactly the kind of students that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein are trying to find ways to reach.

The High School Kinship of Cristal and Queen
Published: June 24, 2007

The Dominican boys in the back of the freshman English class at the high school in Washington Heights were making fun of the timid African-American girl, Queen Bond. One of the boys got down on one knee in front of her as if he were Romeo — they had been studying “Romeo and Juliet” — and delivered the final crushing insult.    “He was saying something about that I smelled,” recalled Queen, now 17. “I just put my head down. I started crying.”



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