Christopher Columbus High School was considered one of the top performing schools in The Bronx, but to be perfectly honest that was not why I chose to go there (although I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have considered it if it had a poor reputation.) The real reason was that I had just spent three years in an all girls middle school, and had no desire to go on to an all girls high school. Enough was enough.
Looking back I realize that the co-ed aspect of my high school experience wasn’t significant. The most important lessons I learned had little to do with boys or academics, and everything to do with the people I met and their approach to life. For the first time I found myself among students and teachers who were passionate, engaged, and involved. There was Mr. Dubow, whose love of the French language was contagious. Miss Silberstang, the art teacher who inspired and pushed me to do better on a daily basis, Miss Pakula, an English teacher who also taught drama, and whose encouragement and good nature appeared to be endless, and Mr. Tannenbaum, who taught me Hebrew in a way that I had never experienced in all my years of Hebrew school.
I had a friend who suddenly and secretly flew to Moscow to participate in a protest on behalf of Soviet Jewry. I met students who were active in Zionist organizations and were strongly committed to living in Israel, some who were Betarniks and others from Hashomer Hatzair. For the first time in my life I met drama students, and art students ,who like myself, spent hours working on portfolios. I met students who cared about the world, and teachers who cared about us. Both inside and outside of the classroom, I learned that passion was a great motivator. It’s the lesson that I still try to remember each day.
Recently I found out that Christopher Columbus is closing its doors, the result of poor academic performance and low graduation rates. I am sad that other students won’t experience what I experienced during my years in a great high school, in a great neighborhood, in a great borough. Goodbye, Columbus.