By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Associate Editor
MANHATTAN — Stephanie Fernandez has spent her entire life in Manhattan but never once ventured into Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
That all changes tonight, when the 17-year-old high school student from Inwood ascends two new summits.
First, she made it to the third spot in her class at one of the best high schools in the nation, and now she's taking the coveted position alongside Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Times Square when he drops the New Year’s Eve ball.
The last guests to join him there were Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“I go to school and I work hard. But usually you don’t get this honor of going to 42nd Street and helping the mayor bring down the ball,” said Fernandez, 17, a senior at the High School for Law and Public Service in Fort George. “It goes from the Clintons to students and me. I find that amazing, and so exciting and an honor, of course.”
Fernandez is one of 12 students who will join Bloomberg to mark a new nationwide ranking that counts 12 city public high schools — four of them in Manhattan — among the top 100 schools in the country.
It’s also a chance for the mayor to tout his accomplishments in the New York City public schools since he took office in 2002, an issue central to his campaign.
“New York City is the most exciting and important place on earth 24/7, but there’s something particularly special about the last and first few seconds of the year, when more than a billion people around the planet have their eyes on us at the exact same time,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
“In that brief window, we get to showcase to the world what’s best about New York, and I couldn’t be more proud that these students – who represent everything we’ve done together to turn one of the nation’s worst public school systems into its most promising – will be there with us,” he said.
The other Manhattan schools on the US News and World Report list include Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City, the New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School and the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies — both in the Lower East Side.
The number of New York City public high schools on this year's list is double the number that appeared in the magazine’s first ranking in 2007, Bloomberg’s office said.
"I’m very excited. This is a really big honor, and a great opportunity for all 12 of us, and I’m excited to be there,” said Lily Ostrer, 17, a senior at Stuyvesant High School.
Ostrer, a captain on the school’s track team, said it’ll also be her first trip to Times Square for New Year’s Eve, a prospect that scares her more than the college application process.
“I’ve never been there for the ball drop and I’m sort of nervous about the crowd," Ostrer said. "I heard it’s kind of a scene down there.”
High school senior and budding politician Andre Gardiner is looking forward to meeting the man he helped get elected to a third term.
Gardiner, 17, of Kips Bay, volunteered with Bloomberg's most recent campaign by knocking on doors and researching key campaign issues.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting the mayor. I worked for his campaign but I never met the guy,” said Gardiner, a student at New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School.
"There were campaign members who would freak out when they got a picture with him, so I’m excited to see what he’s all about,” he added.