The Academy for Young Writers

The Academy for Young Writers Credit: The Academy for Young Writers

In New York City, there’s tons of options for teens when it comes to picking a high school. The city boasts more than 400 schools; many have quirky or out-of-the-box curriculum. While many pride themselves strictly on rigorous academics, others are tailored toward specific interests or careers.

The Department of Education encourages students to start considering high schools as early as the sixth grade, so we’ve compiled a list — it’s by no means exhaustive — of some of the city’s interesting and lesser-known high schools.

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, 35-12 35th Ave. Astoria, 718-361-9920,
Public, approx. 750 students

This school was founded by Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, to honor Frank Sinatra, and to create a public high school that combined rigorous academics with top-notch arts education.

Students can specialize in fine art, dance, vocal and instrumental music, drama and film. In 2009, FSSA opened a brand-new facility at the Kaufman Astoria Studios complex, which boasts a concert hall, two black-box theatres, two dance studios, two art studios and even an outdoor rooftop performance garden. Applicants must audition.

Bronx Compass High School, 1980 Lafayette Ave, Bronx, 718-828-1206,
Public, approx. 90 students

Opened this year, the school encourages students to explore digital/fine art, game design, music production, technology and engineering via its student-run production company. All students have access to laptops, but can also take classes on horticulture. Be sure to check out the chicken coop and huge new orchard and garden.

Academy for Software Engineering (AFSE) and Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE), 40 Irving Pl., 212-253-3299,;
Public, approx. 128 students (BASE to open in fall 2013)

These are two schools that each have partnerships with tech companies like Foursquare, Google and MakerBot that allow students to learn software engineering and computer science. AFSE opened in 2012 in Union Square and BASE will open this fall in the Bronx.

“This is the first software engineering school in the Bronx,” says BASE’s project leader, Ben Grossman. “Graduates will be ready for continuing study.

There’s a very real chance that the kids will get good-paying jobs straight out of high school...” These programs were announced with fanfare by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, 10 South St., Slip 7, 212-458-0800,
Public, approx. 430 students

This public school is located on Governors Island and uses New York City’s waterways to teach skills like boat building and scuba diving as well as environmental stewardship. The campus features a 9,000 square-foot Marine Science and Technology Center.

The Harbor School admits 115 students each year.

Harvey Milk High School, 2-10 Astor Place, 212-477-1555,

Public, approx. 68 students
This public school was founded in 1985 for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, as well as students questioning their sexuality, who experience discrimination in mainstream schools.

The transfer high school strives to build confidence in a nurturing environment. Harvey Milk is named after the first openly gay American politician, portrayed by Sean Penn in the film “Milk.”

Pathways in Technology Early College High School, 150 Albany Ave., Crown Heights, 718-221-1593,
Public, approx. 104 students

P-Tech serves grades 9-14. Yes, 14. This Brooklyn school has partnered with CUNY’s College of Technology to allow students to earn high school and associate’s degrees simultaneously, for free. P-Tech has also joined forces with IBM to provide computer science education and to ensure that its graduates are considered first for jobs with IBM.

“By the time students finish, they have a high school degree, a college degree and a whole array of real-life experience,” said Cass Conrad, executive director of School Support for CUNY.

While P-Tech focuses on IT, two more 9-14 schools will open in the fall: Energy Tech, which is paired with LaGuardia Community College, ConEd and National Grid, and the Health, Education, Research Occupations (HERO) High School in the Bronx, where students will be able to earn their RN in addition to their high school degree.

High School for Language and Innovation, 925 Astor Ave., Bronxwood, 718-944-3625, 
Public, approx. 195 students

This Bronx school was founded in 2011 and uses dual-certified and ESL teachers to teach nonnative English speakers who’ve been in the country for less than four years. Native English speakers also attend. Principal Julie Nariman blends all of the students together.

“It works beautifully,” she said. “Schools get too obsessed with levels. There’s this idea that creating separate levels leads to more learning when it really doesn’t.

Powerful communication happens every day in New York City between people who speak different languages.”

Academy for Young Writers, 1065 Elton St., East New York, 718-688-7230,
Public, approx. 400 students

Located in a brand-new building, the Academy for Young Writers is built on the belief that writing helps students become more expressive.

Principal Courtney Winkfield emphasizes the school’s dedication to publishing student work.

“When students graduate, they’re four-time published authors. Every year, they create a book of their work and it ranges from poetry to really ambitious historical projects.”

The Academy also has a poet-in-residence, Mahogany Browne.

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