A small-school feel with the perks of a big school
Hillcrest is a large neighborhood school with a small school feel, catering instruction for a range of kids, including new immigrants, and offering a demanding science program for future MDs and RNs. It is divided into eight small programs with themes such as theater arts, business and teaching. Students and teachers overwhelmingly say the school is safe on school surveys, and most teachers would recommend the school to other families. Students stream past a row of single-family homes up a gentle hill to get to the school. They pass through metal detectors into wide hallways and large classrooms that lessen the effects of overcrowding, as do three staggered entrance times. The school serves West Indian, Russian, Arab, South Asian, Dominican, Puerto Rican and African immigrants, as well as long-established African American families. A large selection of teams, electives, clubs, and languages (Spanish, French, Japanese) offers something for everyone. A bilingual Bengali program addresses the needs of the rapidly growing Bangladeshi community in Queens. The school is overseen by one principal but each small learning community (SLC) has its own director, teaching staff and suite of classrooms. The SLC themes are health sciences, humanities, pre-med, theater arts, business tech, teaching, and public service and law, in addition to the zoned program. Math, science, social studies, English and most elective classes take place within each SLC, but teens mingle with the wider campus population in sports, clubs, arts and music.
Small learning communities quickly helped this once chaotic school raise its 4-year graduation rate and lower suspensions. Teachers build their careers here and report a high level of satisfaction. Hillcrest received a rating of “well developed,” the highest rating, on the city’s quality review for teacher effectiveness. Students say they are engaged and interested in their programs, classes and activities.
Even so, the four-year graduation rate hovers around the citywide average and many graduates are not ready for college-level work. “There is a subset of students we’re not reaching even with that great teaching,” said principal David Morrison, a Hillcrest alumnus, who served as assistant principal of English for several years before he took the helm in 2014.
Many 9th graders arrive with weak reading skills and some teens miss more than 18 days of school. New immigrants face unique challenges. Morrison said, “Things happen in their life and they become long-term absences.” Getting teens to school every day is a “constant heavy lift,” but the principal said he believes it is helped by strong instruction and “follow-up by teachers and the parent coordinator to bring students back in.”
Hillcrest offers many Advanced Placement courses and teachers make them accessible to every child who can do the work, not just honors students. “If you work hard and persevere, any student can be successful with support,” such as in study groups, or with peer tutoring or teacher help, Morrison said.
College classes are held at Hillcrest in partnership with York College and Queensborough Community College. Students attend Queens College, Hunter College and Stony Brook University, among others.
ADMISSIONS: Priority to students who live in the zone. The pre-med and humanities programs have screened admissions. Students audition for theater arts. The other programs follow the educational option formula, which is designed to admit a mix of low-, average- and high-performing students. (Lydie Raschka, web data and interview, February 2018)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Health Sciences Institute
NYS CTE Certified Nursing Assistant program that includes supervised clinical rotations with training from registered nurses and a developing Sports Medicine program with courses such as Exercise Physiology, Human Anatomy, and Nutrition. Students participate in the Health Professions Club and receive paid and unpaid internships in the health field and volunteer experience.
Teachers of Tomorrow
Through a partnership with CUNY, the PERC TAS program allows students to lead lessons and mentor struggling students in Living Environment and Algebra. Through our partnership with Junior Achievement, students participate in the HS Heroes program where they have the opportunity to teach for a day, twice each year. We offer a Teacher Assistant program through our foundations of education course and the opportunity to participate in job shadowing through American Express and ABC studios.
Humanities Honors Academy
An Honors College Preparatory Program offering scholars four-year tracks in the Humanities discipline. Writing and publishing courses in Creative Writing, Film Studies, and our Journalism program are offered. Plus our award-winning Model UN program provides students opportunities to participate in local, regional and international conferences. Scholars also have options for AP classes and CUNY College Now courses in English, History and other subjects in preparation for future university.
Pre-Med School of Scientific Research (STEM)
Courses offered leading toward medical STEM careers: AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, AP Calculus, AP Spanish, AP Computer Science, AP English Composition, AP English Literature, Chemistry, Anatomy, Physics, STEM Research Academy at York College, STEM Science Research Internship opportunities, NASA-Global Warming and Climate Change, Science Research-Environmental Science, Medical Laboratory, Microbiology, and CUNY College Now Courses. Participant in NYSEF and STEM MATTERS DOE.
Academy of Performing and Visual Arts
The Academy is a rigorous four year program offered at Hillcrest. The three tracks offered are theater, music, and visual arts and entail such courses as technical theater, AP 2-D Art, graphic design, orchestra and marching band and yearlong courses that encourage competency in the various art forms. Students are encouraged to take advantage of arts partnerships that Hillcrest has with institutions around the city for internships and summer programs. The programs end in Regents Exams.
Academy of Public Service and Law
CTE Law Academy courses include Forensics, Criminal Justice, Criminology, Constitutional Law and Legal Studies; preparation for public and community careers in legal, federal/state/local government agencies; College credit for selected courses; High School Law Institute at Columbia University and NYU; Participation in New York State Mock Trials, Moot Court competition and Police Explorers; Paid internship opportunities with the Justice Resource Center.
Biz-Tek prepares students for college and careers in a range of business and STEM fields. CTE endorsed programs in Virtual Enterprise, Cyber Security/Software Engineering, CAD/CAM -Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing; and Information Technology and Computer Networking, training for Cisco certifications, CompTIAA+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (C-CENT), and Cisco Certified Networking, Associate (CCNA).
Hillcrest High School ACES 15:1 Program
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English Language and Composition, AP Calculus AB, AP Biology, AP World History: Modern, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP English Literature and Composition, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP European History, AP Computer Science A, AP United States History, AP Computer Science Principles
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Indoor Track, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Gymnastics, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball
Coed PSAL teams
Contact & Location
160-05 Highland Avenue
Jamaica NY 11432
Trains: to Parsons Blvd
Buses: Q1, Q110, Q111, Q112, Q113, Q114, Q17, Q2, Q20A, Q20B, Q24, Q25, Q3, Q30, Q31, Q34, Q36, Q40, Q41, Q43, Q44-SBS, Q54, Q56, Q6, Q65, Q76, Q77, Q8, Q83, Q9, X68
This school is in its own building.