UPPER WEST SIDE — A local high school that replaced its failing predecessor will send 97 percent of its first graduating class to college this year, the principal said.
Sixty-seven of Frank McCourt High School's 69 seniors are headed to college, with students getting accepted to schools ranging from the University of Pennsylvania to Sarah Lawrence College.
"Everybody here is celebrating," said Principal Danielle Salzberg, who runs the West 84th Street school.
Comparatively, just 72 percent of city high school graduates attended college after the 2012-'13 school year, according to DOE data.
The students, who come from all five boroughs and a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, will attend UPenn, Fordham University, Hampshire College, Howard University, Ithaca College, Lafayette College, Pace University, Penn State and Sarah Lawrence, among others.
In 2012, Frank McCourt H.S. — named for the celebrated author and educator — along with three smaller high schools replaced Brandeis High School, which suffered from dismal academic and attendance records.
Frank McCourt High School has a predominantly Latino student body at 42.7 percent, with white students accounting for nearly 29 percent of the school population and black students accounting for nearly 16 percent, according to current DOE figures.
Applicants to the 320-student high school have to work on a group project as part of their interview and write an application essay. Unlike other schools that screen applicants, Frank McCourt is more forgiving of students' past test scores and GPAs, the principal said.
Building a small school with an emphasis on college preparation has made all the difference in terms of student success, Salzberg explained. Students agreed, crediting the intimate nature of the school with helping them to excel.
"We’ve developed this united community, like a family," said Michael Rodriguez, 17, who hails from Kingsbridge in The Bronx and is attending Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn next fall.
He plans to study physical therapy, an interest he developed after participating in Frank McCourt's internship program this year, in which he worked at an athlete-oriented physical therapy company based in TriBeCa.
"With the motivation that I have, I’m looking forward to putting my potential into my work," he said.
While Salzberg considered the newness of the school a hurdle for the first graduating class because they lacked examples or traditions to follow, some of her students disagreed.
Rodriguez and classmate Doris Alcantara, 17, saw it as the chance for a clean slate after a difficult middle school experience.
Alcantara, who lives in Hell's Kitchen and will attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., said she was bullied in middle school but "got to establish a culture" at Frank McCourt in which "I felt accepted for just being me."
Alcantara advised prospective students to take their studies seriously.
"Be ready to work," she said. "This is not a game. Be ready to prepare yourself for your future."
Salzberg said her school's "amazing" college acceptance rate will affect future classes, as younger students will think to themselves, "These are schools I could see myself at, because somebody goes there from here."