OPINION: Coney Island Prep students to know value of college education
In February of this year, I had the honor of hosting students from the first graduating class of Coney Island Prep High School at the state Capitol. I am so proud of all these young scholars have accomplished, but above all, I am proud that every one of them has been accepted to college.
As a member of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education, I know the life-changing power of a college degree. Today’s college graduates, on average, earn $17,500 more than their peers with high school diplomas. Our committee works to make sure that every student from New York has access to an education beyond high school and to the countless career opportunities a higher education grants them.
The story of Coney Island Prep echoes the story of the broader public charter sector in New York City. Like many other public charter schools, Coney Island Prep was founded based on an unwavering belief that every student deserves a quality education. The school was scrappy in its early days, with just four rooms in the local community center and 90 fifth-grade students when it opened its doors. Today, the school has grown tremendously as its reputation for excellence becomes known among families. Today, more than 1,000 scholars are enrolled at Coney Island Prep, and each and every one of our seniors is graduating with a college acceptance letter in hand.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Coney Island Prep campus and have witnessed how the school’s core values — professionalism, respect, integrity, determination and excellence — are woven into every aspect of the school day. Teachers and administrators work tirelessly to create an environment that fosters learning and students are excited to attend class each day and engage with the innovative curriculum. It’s the kind of environment every parent wants for their child.
While Coney Island Prep has made a great deal of headway in our community, we still have a long way to go to ensure that every child in South Brooklyn and across our city can attend a school that helps them grow and succeed. Today, more than 44,000 families remain on waitlists in hopes that their children will be admitted to a public charter school in their district. The data on the value of a college education is clear, and we need to do everything in our power to make sure that these families don’t have to wait any longer. That’s why I support the expansion of all great public schools — charter or district — and believe that all public schools must be funded fairly based on the needs of their students.
I look forward to the day when every high school senior being accepted to college is no longer viewed as extraordinary. Groundbreaking schools like Coney Island Prep are showing us what’s possible, and it’s only by supporting more great public schools, whether they’re charter or district, that we can make college a reality for every student.
—Pamela Harris is a Democratic state assemblymember for the 46th district (Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Coney Island)