2002-03-23 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms This One’s For Shareena!

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms
This One's For Shareena!

I want all of the adult readers to do me a favor. I want you to think back to the days when you were in high school. I'll wait a few seconds because it may take some of you a little longer to reach back that far. Remember those days? Remember your first crush on the girl who wouldn't give you the time of day because you had an enormous zit on your forehead? Remember the first guy you kissed and found out how bad his breath was? Remember the feeling of nervousness and dread when the teacher called on you and you didn't do the homework the night before? Remember flipping a spoonful of mashed potatoes and peas at students on the other side of the lunchroom? Are you with me now? Good. Now that I've set the stage, check this out.

Think back to the period right before high school, when you were working with your guidance counselor to determine which high school you were going to attend. You filled out the paperwork and questionnaires, talked about your interests with your parent(s), and you quickly sent the papers off to the school of your choice. You anxiously waited for weeks to find out if you made the cut with the chosen institution or if you did not. The letter came, and you were either overjoyed because you made it, or overwhelmed with sorrow because you were denied. In my niece's case, Shareena Toms, she was the latter.

Shareena is an honor roll student at M.S. 53. She has made the honor roll so many times that I have lost count. Her average is somewhere between 94 and 98. The girl even gives her uncle a run for his money when they go head to head at "Jeopardy" on certain nights. She is respectful, inquisitive, and above all else, she is a young girl who simply wants to be given a chance to prove herself and showcase her many talents.

Shareena applied to two high schools: Fiorello La Guardia High School (for its outstanding music program) and A. Phillip Randolph High School (for its acclaimed medical program). Both rejected her, and they did not bother to offer any explanation as to why. I was informed that La Guardia has a very strict policy with regard to obtaining only the best musically gifted youngsters. She did audition by singing the song "Hero", and if she didn't cut it vocally, the school should have at least said that. My niece did make a very valid point when she said, "I don't understand Uncle Gary. Even the students that are accepted have to be trained and coached vocally to a certain extent. They are developed and transformed into genuine musical talents."
To simply send back a notice typed REJECTED is bogus! A. Philip Randolph High School really has some explaining to do because Shareena has the grade average to get her into the school, and they still rejected her. Shareena cried for hours because not only did she have her heart set on attending one of these schools, but the Admission's Office letter also had the nerve to tell her that she meets the requirements to attend Far Rockaway and Beach Channel High School. No disrespect to Far Rock or Beach Channel because they are very good schools. I graduated from Far Rock. However, students should be able to have other choices in furthering their education, just as they do in picking colleges. Hold on folks because it gets better.

In my investigation, I found out something very interesting. It seems my niece may have been rejected by these schools simply because neither may have been her first choice. In other words, if she applied to A. Philip Randolph H.S. first, and Fiorello La Guardia H.S. saw that the filing application listed them as the second choice, La Guardia "bounced" her from the selection process. It turns into a "choose us or you're out" type of deal. Here's the real kick in the a..! This is a practice that is rampant throughout the system, and that does not sit well with The G-man.

Just stop and think for a minute. If this crap is going on, imagine how many students may have had their hopes and dreams crushed because of this process. Imagine how many students may have decided to drop out of school all together because they were made to feel they were not good enough or had to settle for second best, even though they may have had the talent or grades to get them in. Ultimately, the parent(s) is (are) left with the task of trying to comfort their child and explain why they were considered not good enough, but how much explaining can they do with a letter that simply says REJECTED?

I have no problem with someone not meeting the performance or academic criteria of a chosen school. We all can't be like Celine Dion, Luther Vandross or Albert Einstein. What I do have a problem with is the way in which young people's dreams and aspirations are destroyed. The notification letter and the "bounce" policy of participating schools had to be developed by heartless jackasses. No one who has children of their own, and wants the best for them, would ever engage in, or support, such blatant stupidity.

Yes, I'm putting it out there because kids and parents need to know what is going on, and it is not fair. Do you think the system is going to be honest enough to tell you? I…don't…. think…. so!

I wish the people who came up with these lousy policies would try to come at me for writing this. My cousin is the head coach for Boston College, and they got stomped in the first round of the NCAA tournament. So, I'm looking for a reason to go off!

The title of this column may be "This One's For Shareena", but it is also for Shameeka, Shaun, Carrie, William, John, Robert, Steven, Eileen, Debbie, Rose, Juan, Jose, Raymond, Felipe, Noah, Sarah, Yakov and any other student that may have been dissed by the system and these asinine practices.

See you next week!

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