UPPER WEST SIDE — District 3 students honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Thursday, and used the occasion to spotlight how the district's new magnet schools are helping them achieve their dreams.
Magnet school students gathered at P.S. 333's auditorium on West 93rd Street to celebrate the civil rights leader with speeches, videos and artwork. But the event doubled as a sort of pep rally to celebrate an $11 million federal grant the district won to create eight magnet schools on the Upper West Side and in Harlem.
"The roots of magnet schools are firmly planted in the struggles of the civil rights movement," District 3 Magnet Schools director Lainie Leber told students. "Just as Dr. King dreamed of a world where there would be equal opportunities for all people...Magnet schools have provided choice and opportunity for students and their families so that they too can reach their greatest possible heights."
Magnet schools receive federal money to create themed curricula that will attract a more diverse student body. The eight magnet schools in District 3, some of which have struggled with poor performance in the past, now have specialized instruction, new names and a focus on parent involvement.
District 3's grant lasts four years, but the improvements at each school are meant to be sustainable over the long run.
Fifth grader Anthony Guerrido, whose principal said he was "a hot mess" a few years ago but has since improved greatly, delivered a speech about the STEM Institute (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) magnet school, formerly known as P.S. 241, on West 113th Street.
Guerrido said his dream was to become an NFL football player so he can "live a good life" and support his family. "STEM lessons teach me how to plan through the engineering design and scientific process," Guerrido said. "This helps me set goals and game plans in my life and when I play."
Charlie Sampedro, a fifth grader from the Magnet School for Technology and Communication (P.S. 145 on West 105th Street), said his dream was to disband racist groups.
"I personally think racism is crazy because we're all the same, black or white," Sampredo said. "The world has been separated too long and I'm going to change it."
Tykima Tompkins, an eighth grader at M.S. 421, West Prep Academy, got a huge round of applause when she told the crowd her dream was to get a PhD in Biology so she could find cures for HIV and cancer.
Tompkins said West Prep, whose theme is "youth voice through youth media", was helping her reach her goals by teaching her to be "focused, persistent and determined."
"This school has taught me how to be a scholar in class, but most importantly [it has] taught me how to be a scholar in life — and for that I say thank you," said Tompkins.
The eight magnet schools in District 3 are:
The Magnet School for Technology & Communication (P.S. 145 on West 105th Street); the Early Childhood Discovery and Design Magnet School (P.S. 185 on West 112th Street); the Museum Magnet School (P.S. 191 on West 61st Street); the Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship (P.S. 208 on West 111th Street); the STEM Institute of Manhattan (P.S. 241 on West 113th Street); the Young Diplomats Magnet Academy (P.S. 242 on West 122nd Street); West Prep Academy (M.S. 421 on West 105th Street); and P.S. 87 on West 78th Street, whose theme is School Without Walls.