by Caroline Soffer
On the first day of high school, all incoming freshmen are sure to be a bit nervous. But perhaps none are as nervous as the students that did not attend middle school at Westland. Among these students are four girls who have all recently graduated from the Humanities and Communications Magnet Program at Eastern Middle School, a Montgomery County Public School located in Langley Park (near Silver Spring).
At Eastern, cockroaches in lockers, broken ceiling and floor tiles, lack of pencils or paper, and completely broken desks are common occurrences. Coming from Eastern to a school like B-CC can be quite a culture shock and is sure to rack a few nerves. “The thing about the Eastern grounds is there would always be beer bottles littering the ground and everything is dirty,” said Milena Orbach. “B-CC is a lot cleaner.”
Each year about 600 MCPS 5th graders try their luck at getting into the Eastern Magnet. Each student applying has about a 5.4% chance of getting in. The long and somewhat intimidating application process stretches from September to February and includes writing four essays, taking a logical reasoning test, and getting two teacher recommendation letters. Only 150 students are accepted each year and only 110 are actually guaranteed spots in the program. Most of the kids who get in to Eastern come from the Silver Spring area, but significant number come from Bethesda and as far as North Potomac and Rockville.
During their three years at Eastern, students are taught through interdisciplinary English, History, and Media classes, as well as how to write and think critically about what they read and hear. After final exams are finished at the end of 8th grade, the students who have stuck with the program together for the past three years make tearful goodbyes and go their separate ways. “The magnet is much smaller so it’s much more like a community. People have a lot in common so it’s easier to connect,” Orbach adds.
Most students continue on to other high school magnet programs such as the Communication Arts Program (CAP) or the Math and Science Magnet, both at Montgomery Blair High School. Others go on to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Richard Montgomery High School. “Partially I feel like even if I had gone to a magnet high school I would have been scattered between Blair, Richard Montgomery, DC Public schools, and a lot of private,” Orbach says, “but it’s hard because I was really close to a lot of people there [at Eastern].”
So why did these four girls choose BCC? “Richard Montgomery is too far away,” Kahn says, “I’m not incredibly passionate about math and science, and I’m not totally sure I want to go into communication arts [as a career]. I thought I would get a well – rounded education at BCC.”
So are they happy with their decision? Orbach says, “I think I’m becoming a part of B-CC. I’m starting a chess club. Socially I don’t think that I fit in. Because everyone’s coming from Westland and I’m from Eastern.”