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A School is Born: Student Voices

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Staff Writer Meg Sommerfeld interviewed several City on a Hill students about their experiences during the school's first year and about their plans for the summer. Following are excerpts from those interviews.

Name: Lisa O'Neill

Age: 15

Grade: 9

Previous school: Patrick F. Gavin Middle School, Boston

It is so different. I thought it would be all these nerdy kids and I would be alone. I thought it would be all these kids who came out of parochial school and didn't care about anything else but school. Then I came here and it was like, "Whoa, it's not like their whole life is school.''

The teachers are a lot nicer. Everybody knows everybody. Depending on how you look at it, that can be a downer--if you tell someone something, the whole school knows it. You don't like it that everyone knows your business. But it's like a little family.

There's a lot more work here. I was probably doing 6th-grade work in my last school. Here, they pushed me so far ahead. ... That's the way the teachers are, they want to push you ahead quickly.

Summer plans: Working for Urban Arts, a community group that creates art displays to beautify Boston neighborhoods.

Name: Benjamin Adams

Age:15

Grade: 9

Previous school: James P. Timilty Middle School, Boston

There was a lottery and my mom wanted me to go to a good school. I was going to go to B.C. High [Boston College High School, an all-boys private school], but she didn't want to pay all that money. I was on the wait list [at City on a Hill] until about a week before school started.

At first I didn't want to go to City on a Hill.

I thought it would be a stupid small school with no sports programs or academic programs, just a plain school with nothing, and I thought, "That's kind of weak.'' But [it turned out to be] good, because it's a small school, and a small environment where I can learn just as much as at B.C. High.

I think I got more mature over the year, and can take more responsibility than in the past. I like doing public service, like helping people out in day care. The faculty, sometimes they make teaching fun. It's straightforward and not all boring.

Summer plans: Working at Project Vote Smart, a nonprofit, nonpartisan voter-information hotline, fielding inquiries from people looking for information about the upcoming elections.

Name: Aleida NuĀ¤ez

Age: 14

Grade: 9

Previous school: John W. McCormack Middle School, Boston.

My father didn't want me to go to Madison [the neighborhood high school]. Kids get shot there. My three older brothers and sisters all went there, and my sister is still there. I've always been the little nerd of the family, and he didn't want to take any chances.

I wanted to try something different. I didn't want to go to one of those big buildings where you get lost, and can't find your classes.

I was impressed when I came here. It was nothing like school.

The teachers are great, they are so different. They are like one of us, they make everything so fun. ... I'm stressed out from the work, but it was worth it.

Summer plans: Attending a residential summer mathematics program at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.

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