Lucky night for a few students

April 23, 2009 9:41:05 PM PDT
A lucky few students were welcomed in to the Harlem Success Academy after winning a lottery to attend the prestigious-- and free -- charter school. "I wanted to jump and to scream because that was my dream for him and I got it! I got it," Lucia Walters, mother of one lucky student, said.

Thousands of people attended the lottery at the Armory in Washington Heights, and waited anxiously to see if their child's name was on the list.

For many parents, the alternative, a local public school, is simply unthinkable.

"Every day he comes home from that school hurt, beat up. That school took his joy," Janet Walker said.

After two years in public school, her son was accepted.

"I'm a little nervous and happy. It's a very good school that's why I always have good dreams about it," six-year-old Nasir Brown said.

The Harlem Success Academy, which opened less than three years ago, has distinguished itself with a longer school day, a demanding curriculum and a variety of classes including chess and karate.

The reputation of the school has grown so strong that only nine percent of students who apply to the Harlem Success Academy get in -- about the same admissions rate as Princeton University.

More than 5000 kids apply for 450 spots. For those who didn't get in, there's always the waiting list.

Excelia Philbert was devastated after her son, Jalil, wasn't chosen. Other parents left empty-handed are also weighing their options.

"It's a very stressful time. We don't know where she's going to school in September," Debbie Serrano said about her daughter.

So far, the Harlem Success Academy has four schools. Officials hope to eventually have forty so in the future they won't have to turn so many students away.

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