July 2019 News


Since 1999, WNYC Radio Rookies has been conducting workshops across New York City to give young people the tools and training to tell their own stories on the radio. Eight students from CDI got the opportunity to write and produce their own radio shows this summer at WNYC. Our students’ stories explore complex topics ranging from applying to college as an immigrant, to how gender identity affects the school experience, to what it means to be an older student in high school. “We’re interested in teaching young people how to tell a story,” said Kaari Pitkin, Senior Producer of Radio Rookies at WNYC. “Manhattan Comprehensive students’ stories are particularly unique because many of your students are recent immigrants and have fascinating and moving perspectives.” Stories from CDI students will be released over the course of the summer.

The first two stories are from Kristin Tomlinson and Shamari Ridley.

Kristin, who identifies as gender- fluid, explores the changing constructs of gender over the last 50 years — from language to labels to modes of expression. Listen to Kristin’s episode here.

On his episode, Shamari talks about dropping out in the 11th grade after years of moving and switching schools, and how he overcame that instability at MCNDHS, one of NYC’s 51 transfer schools specifically designed for older, under-credited high school students. Click here to listen to how Shamari found the support he needed at Manhattan Comprehensive and CDI.


Just because the long, lazy summer days have rolled around, doesn’t mean the action stops at CDI! Summer school and other college prep programs are running full speed ahead at our partner schools, including Summer Bridge Programs for incoming freshmen to College Prep and English Communication Classes for rising seniors.

At our transfer schools, students are working over the summer to gain credits toward graduation. At Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School, more than 400 students are attending summer school. This year, CDI has also inaugurated English Conversation classes at MCNDHS for ESL students stepping into their first semester. Four times a week for 90 minutes, CDI tutors sit down with these recent immigrants to go over vocabulary, daily conversations and navigating city life.

At City-As-School, more than 150 students are attending summer school, including College 101 sessions where those graduating in August and November of this year can explore their financial aid options, New York State and City opportunity programs, and application processes for private colleges and those in the SUNY/CUNY school system.

At The High School for Health Professions and Human Services, CDI’s Summer College Prep program is in full swing for its 6th year. The SCP is an intense two-week program that offers rising seniors a head start at the college process. More than 100 students take part in one of the three sessions in July and August, honing their skills on college essay writing, building college lists, registering for the SAT, and learning the basics of financial aid. They’ll also take career interest surveys to help them begin to think college and career options.

HPHS is also piloting a Welcome to High School Summer Bridge program for incoming freshmen who have a mix of educational needs or for whom English isn’t a first language.


Kimberly Espinoza, A 2019 High School for Health Professions and Human Services graduate was awarded a full, four-year scholarship to attend Columbia University this year. We spoke to her about her wonderful achievement, her experience with CDI, her favorite books and more!

On her family and childhood:

As a first generation Ecaudorian-American and oldest of four children, responsibility and hard work has always been important to me. When I was in the eighth grade, my mother struggled with severe post-partum depression, so I juggled my transition into high school with taking care of my brothers and sisters. I grew up reading a lot – my favorite books range from Great Expectations to romance novels to medical non-fiction like The Hot Zone, which is an incredible account of the ebola outbreak. I’m the first one in my family to go to college, and I had to figure out a lot of things from scratch. When I told my parents I’d gotten into Columbia they weren’t sure what it meant to be “Ivy League”, but when their friends explained to them that it was a big school, my parents were really proud of me! Since I got accepted to Columbia through the Higher Education Opportunity Program, I start my summer bridge program in July. I’m nervous but really excited about living on my own for the first time in college dorms!

Working with CDI:

In my Junior year, Ms. Fatimah reached out to us about CDI’s Junior College Prep program. We started with SAT prep, and then moved on to college prep – getting familiar with the application process, navigating financial aid, etc. My CDI advisor, Ms.Whitney worked closely with me throughout the process. With her help, I applied to 20 schools total, but Columbia was always my first choice. Since Ms.Whitney had gone to Columbia herself, she really helped me understand what they were looking for in applicants. I applied Early Decision and found out I got in December 2018. My cousin went to a school without services like CDI and found it really hard to navigate the process. So I’m really grateful for these resources and think more students should take advantage of them.

Inspiration for her application essays:

I was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – which as we know is a huge gentrification site in the city. I’ve really seen it change across the years and I wanted to write an essay about how I grew up. I realized I could draw a clear parallel about how I had changed alongside my neighborhood. I polished it several times with help from CDI. I recently found out that admissions officials at Columbia were using my essay an example while looking through applications! I wrote about growing up in Williamsburg and how I grew with the neighborhood. The closing paragraph reads:

“By the time I graduated middle school, Williamsburg developed into a new place. All of the construction brought new stores, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. There was no longer complete quiet and calm as there was before…. Similarly, I was no longer quiet, as I began to speak for myself, and matured in order to step up for my family….Within a year, the last parking lot in my neighborhood was built into a movie theater. Now, whenever I look at the beautifully-constructed movie theater, I remember that a person can change and still keep good aspects of the past. I have grown along with my hometown, and it will always be a part of me.”

About her future plans:

I’ve always known I wanted to be a doctor since I was maybe four. My mother wanted to study medicine but didn’t have the right resources or the circumstances to pursue it, so I’m very proud to do it for her.

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