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Voices from the 2013 high school search: Jonathan Aguilar

Jonathan Aguilar, 13, stood in the middle of the jam-packed Francis Lewis High School gym, trying to find a calm spot amid the bustle of parents and students at the Queens high school fair.

At first, Jonathan’s plan was to collect material being handed out from the schools with strong technology programs. But with the sheer number of schools at the fair and the crush of people, it was difficult to figure out each school’s specialty. He began stopping at nearly every booth and collecting the handouts.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve been walking through the school booths just taking papers from all of them.”

Jonathan’s mother, Sandra Aguilar, remained calm. This was not the first high school fair for the Aguilars, who live in the Glendale section of Queens.

“We went through this process with my older son, so I’m a veteran at this now,” she said.

Sandra Aguilar told Jonathan he didn’t have to find the right high school that day. She told him to go ahead and gather whatever documents the schools — and and all of them — were handing out. They’d go home and sort through those handouts to decide which individual high schools to visit later.

“We just accept as many papers as we can and then decide which school open houses we want to go to after we leave today,” she said.

Jonathan said did not want to go to high school outside of his home borough of Queens. For three years, he’s watched his older brother get up early to take the subway into Manhattan and the High School of Art and Technology. Jonathan reasoned that if he went to school in Queens, closer to home, he could sleep a little later in the morning.

Bobbing his head along with the music playing through his bright green headphones, Jonathan said that he was interested in schools that offer technology courses because he loves video games.

As if helping Jonathan look at high schools wasn’t enough, Sandra Aguilar said she is also helping her older son consider colleges. “I’m very stressed,” she said.

But she never considered skipping the high school fair. Going to the fair helped Jonathan’s older brother find a high school where he has thrived, she said.

“We hope that Jonathan has a similar experience,” Sandra said. “So we’re going to just take it little by little until we find the right school for him.”

Sandra said that there are more schools represented at the fair this year than when she attended with Jonathan’s brother, and the application process in general is more complicated.

Out of earshot from his mother, taking pamphlets from school representatives, Jonathan said that the thing he really wanted in a school was a good academic program.

“As long as the academics are top notch, you can’t go wrong,” he said.

Rebecca Harris is a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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