8 Ways Elmont Memorial High School Clears the Path for Student Success

High expectations, individualized attention, and more go a long way

(Image: Elmont Memorial High School)
(Image: Elmont Memorial High School)

You’ve heard the news by now: Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna (shown left, with her principal), a senior at Elmont Memorial High School in Elmont, New York, has been accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.

This is the second consecutive year that an EMHS student has produced an I-sweep. Last year, Harold Ekeh, an EMHS senior whom I was privileged to meet last spring with his principal, John Capozzi, was also accepted into all eight Ivies.

The school is a culturally diverse mosaic of the African diaspora: Students hail from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and West Africa. It is 79% of African descent, 12% Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 1% white.

“People make assumptions about our school because of its socio-economic diversity and because the vast majority of our students have brown skin,” says Kevin Dougherty, the current principal. “But our kids are performing at a very high level.”

So I sat down with Dougherty to find out how this Title 1 school of 1,580 students in grades 7–12—is so successful at producing academic superstars. Here’s what he told me.

  1. High expectations— “We make sure kids know that the trajectory we see them on is one that’s college-ready. We want them to fulfill their potential.”
  2. Individualized attention— “The staff, the guidance counselors, the principals before me all set a precedent of academic excellence. I’m building on that foundation.”
  3. Commitment to excellence— “We break it down to the granular level—if kids’ grades drop or their attendance flags, we follow up with each student to make sure each one is successful.”
  4. Dedicated guidance staff— “My team is amazing. They’re totally student-centered. I can call them at night and they’ll contact a parent, if that’s needed. They’ll do house visits if a student is depressed or avoiding school.”
  5. Outstanding academic counseling— “They coach them through their transcripts, they stay on top of their Regents exams. They’re very knowledgeable about the college process. They stay current on information about scholarships, financial aid, and what colleges are looking for.”
  6. Genuine care— “Before I was hired, the parents and staff grilled me all day! But that just shows how much they care about the kids.”
  7. Robust after-school activities— “Elmont teachers and staff fill all extracurricular positions. At other schools, advisers and coaches come from outside. The staff commits what the students need, not just what they’re contractually obligated to provide.”
  8. Community support—  “Elmont is a tight-knit community that is incredibly supportive of EMHS. It is because of this support and the positive relationships with parents and the community that EMHS is able to accomplish what it does.”