Located in the heart of Northern Queens, Jackson Heights – population 169,083 according to the 2000 Census – has the largest Hispanic population in the borough. A stroll up the main thoroughfare, Roosevelt Avenue, reveals the many culinary contributions that Colombians, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Mexicans and Peruvians have made to the neighborhood. But the South Asian population has also left a stamp. The western part of Jackson Heights boasts some of the best Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese restaurants, supermarkets, jewelry and clothing stores in New York.
I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer Junior High School
Located on 33-34 80th Street, the I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer Junior High School does more than just keep kids occupied during the day. The Joseph Pulitzer Middle School is a chock full of extracurricular programs designed to make kids more proactive and send them in a clear direction.
Comprised of about 2,000 students, 85 percent who are Hispanic, the school is also home to more than 23 spoken languages from approximately 42 countries.
Currently the school is divided into five academies – including humanities, journalism, media arts, math and business.
The school relies heavily on its extracurricular programs, which involve collaboration with the 115th precinct. This particular program introduces the kids to forensics and science related to law enforcement.
In addition they are also involved in an exchange program with both South Korea and Brazil that sends kids to both countries every year.
With the impending budget cuts, School Technology Chairperson Ms. Johnson said “we are making the most of what we have. We want to give the kids the best we have no matter what.”
However the school may be forced to excess 10 teachers for the upcoming school year.
Principal Dolores Beckham mentioned that the school is involved with several College fairs including trips to St. John’s University, and in addition trips to various high schools.
“There are no more excuses,” Beckham said. “Kids need to work on their skills and think for their future.”
The Garden School
One of the best kept secrets in Queens, The Garden School on 79th Street provides a first-class education for students from nursery school through 12th grade.
A small independent school comprised of 330 students, the average class size is around 30, which is then split even further. Headmaster Richard Marotta feels that having such small classes is beneficial to the students in that “we are better able to address the needs of the students more efficiently.”
As a result of managing smaller classes The Garden School, year after year produces graduates who attend some of the country’s top colleges. Being a part of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) they do not have to adhere to curriculum requirements mandated by the state. This way the school does not have to teach material based around a state test waiting at the end of the year, but rather keep the curriculum more open.
Marotta also went on to mention that the school has no majority in terms of ethnicity. In fact it runs parallel to how diverse an area like Jackson Heights can be.
The success of the school is also seen in the tailored, personal approach of the staff. Due to the small size of the school, everybody knows one another.
“That way, teachers can sense if something is going with a student, you can’t cut class, you can’t hide,” said Marotta.
The Garden School is a private school, and the students have to file an application and pass an interview in order to gain admission to the school.
One of the ways that the Garden School can attract students is through the special programs it offers. Since 1994, The Garden School has taken roughly 50 trips to foreign countries all over the globe in order to provide its students with a worldly education.
As for the future, Morotta hopes to gain the status of an International Baccalaureate, which encompasses a more rigorous curriculum than the current one.