Young Women's Leadership School, Queens (TYWLS)
Jamaica NY 11432
Supportive atmosphere for girls
Limited sports, clubs and art
Across the street from one of the largest high schools in the borough, The Young Women's Leadership School for Girls (TYWLS), Queens offers a small, rigorous and supportive setting for 6th through 12th grade girls. Boasting a better-than-average high school graduation rate, the school is a draw for many working-class new immigrant families. "I'm here because of the graduation rate," said a 6th grade student.
The clean corridors at TYWLS, Queens, brim with ambition and hope. Housed in the former Jewish Community Center, the school opened in 2005 as the third in a network of Young Women's Leadership schools, designed, as stated in the school directory, "to replicate the best practices of private and independent girls' schools."
College is emphasized from the beginning. Starting in 6th grade, students take yearly trips to visit college campuses. The office of the full-time college counselor has a bank of computers for filling out college applications. In 2014, one senior went to the University of Notre Dame on a full scholarship; another was accepted at Wesleyan College. About one-quarter of students choose small New York State liberal arts schools; others opt for two- and four-year City University of New York (CUNY) schools; a few leave the state. "Out of 60 seniors, every girl was accepted to a college of her choice," said Principal Mala Panday. As a group, the 2014 graduating seniors were offered over $4 million in scholarships.
The girls and their parents want more; on school surveys they've asked for more advanced classes, more clubs, more sports and more art. The school now offers up to 15 clubs and has added Advanced Placement courses in environmental science, calculus AB, English literature and composition, Spanish literature, US history, and physics (as of 2015-2016).
The school has well-developed English language arts (ELA) classes. "We are number one in the district for ELA," said one of two middle school English teachers. She works closely with a colleague to prepare students for state exams. The girls do lots of writing, she said; one perk of a smaller school is that teachers often have more time to engage in the back and forth feedback that strengthens a student's writing.
Principal Panday is a former middle school science teacher who joined the TYWLS staff in 2013. Under her leadership the middle school has increased the number of hours of English and math instruction, and has added a rare two to three labs per semester to prepare middle school students for high school lab work. Field trips augment these studies.
As a small school, of course, TYWLS cannot be all things to all students. On school surveys some students and parents cite a lack of variety in programs, classes and activities. In response, the school has a budding partnership with neighboring Hillcrest High School designed to expand offerings in the arts.
The school has sought to "better understand the middle school mindset," Panday said. Students in 6th through 8th grades gather two or three times a week in small groups to role-play, talk and make journal entries on themes of importance at their age. The themes in their advisory program include: "trust your gut"; "get help"; "follow your passions"; and "have courage."
All girls receive Spanish or French, and about a dozen seniors take a trip to Paris. In addition to chorus and art during the day, a rock band meets before and after school. There are two after-school programs; one lasts until 6 pm and offers swimming lessons. TYWLS has a winning track and field team and several other sports teams.
Special education: There are team-taught classes at every grade level, in which students with special needs learn alongside their general education peers.
Admissions: The middle school is open to students living in districts 28 and 29 who do well on standardized tests. The high school is open citywide, with preference to continuing 8th graders and residents of Queens. Applicants must take a tour with families. TYWLS looks for a mix of students who are not just high achievers but those who are motivated to go to college. In 9th grade roughly 30 spots open up but the principal expects this number will decline as more students stay due to greater course offerings. Some girls leave for a co-ed setting or more sports and arts after 8th grade, she said. (Lydie Raschka, November 2014)
About the students
About the school
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Programs and Admissions
Arabic, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Calculus, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP US History
Girls PSAL teams
Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track