New York City’s public high schools boast a huge array of specialty tracks for students looking to explore a career path or cultivate a talent. Some of these reside in institutions devoted entirely to music, art and other pursuits. Others can be found as career and technical education, or CTE, programs within large high schools.
Either way, dedicated students can earn industry-endorsed diplomas that impress college admissions officers, or lead right into the paid workforce.
Here are 10 of the city’s best.
Agriculture and veterinary science
JOHN BOWNE HIGH SCHOOL
63-25 Main St., Queens
Four-year graduation rate: 77%
One of the last working farms in Queens thrives on the campus of Flushing’s John Bowne High School. The 4-acre “Land Lab” is the domain of the school’s 600 Aggies, students of its century-old agriculture CTE program. Kids work there year-round collecting eggs in the poultry house, tending the cow and alpacas in the large animal barn, caring for rabbits and exotic birds in the small animal labs, picking apples in the orchard and cultivating flowers and vegetables to sell at the on-site farmers market. In the summer, sophomores and juniors live and work on family-owned dairy, horse and vegetable farms or take urban internships at veterinary hospitals, nurseries and zoos. The school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America — the only one in the city — prepares kids for jobs in the burgeoning green economy and for admission to top-ranked agriculture schools like Cornell University.
HIGH SCHOOL OF ART AND DESIGN
245 E. 56th St., Manhattan
Four-year graduation rate: 94%
A rigorous career and technical education program teaches budding architects the tools of the trade, including AutoCAD. Freshman year begins with a course that provides solid grounding in hand-drafting and basic design skills. Unusual projects unleash students’ creativity: Last year, sophomores studying interior design constructed intricate dollhouses to experiment with room layouts, then donated them to local children’s hospitals. By senior year, students work in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to develop such neighborhood-planning projects as Willets Point in Queens and Hudson Yards in Manhattan. The school’s long-running internship program placed over 200 students at more than 100 work sites this year.
ALFRED E. SMITH CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL
333 E. 151st St., The Bronx
Four-year graduation rate: 99%
Nationally certified CTE programs at this South Bronx school give students a running start on careers in the automotive industry. The long-established automotive technology track offers a thorough four-year curriculum covering brakes, steering, suspension, electrical systems and computer control. A new collision repair program tackles auto body assembly, dent and glass repair, welding and detailing. After three years of practice in classrooms stocked with the same equipment used in commercial service shops, seniors are ready to work in the school’s on-site garage, open to the public for inspections, bodywork, oil changes, alarm installations and more. Many students snag prestige internships at dealerships like BMW of Manhattan and Lexus of Queens, building resumes that help them land solid jobs as soon as they graduate.
AVIATION CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL
45-30 36th St., Queens
Four-year graduation rate: 99%
Students aim for the sky at Aviation High School in Long Island City, which has been training top-flight airplane mechanics and aerospace engineers since 1936. Everyone takes intensive, hands-on courses in aircraft maintenance starting freshman year, covering all the subject areas required to earn Federal Aviation Administration certification in either the airframe or the power plant subject area. At the same time, they juggle the requirements of a core college prep curriculum, with 11 AP classes. Top students can gain their second FAA license through an additional fifth-year honors program that’s taught at Aviation’s own annex at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Many of them take paid internships at Delta, JetBlue and other industry partners, burnishing their resumes for college, military academies and in-demand careers with airlines and air freight carriers.
STEPHEN T. MATHER BUILDING ARTS & CRAFTSMANSHIP HIGH SCHOOL
439 W. 49th St., Manhattan
Four-year graduation rate: 84%
In partnership with the National Park Service, this school is nurturing the professionals who will sustain and protect America’s historical heritage far into the future. At Mather High School, kids get their hands dirty working with paint, plaster, plants, wood, bricks and stone as they pursue CTE-endorsed diplomas in carpentry, masonry, decorative finishes and landscape management. They also get a grounding in preservation methodology skills like research, documentation and interpretation, giving them new appreciation of the history that’s all around us. Students visit every one of Manhattan’s 11 national historic sites, participate in multiple work-based learning trips and complete internships before they graduate. Many earn Occupational Safety and Health Administration and scaffolding certifications necessary for careers in the specialty building trades.
URBAN ASSEMBLY NEW YORK HARBOR SCHOOL
550 Short Ave., Governors Island
Four-year graduation rate: 86%
Kids with a passion for the sea plunge into their studies on picturesque Governor’s Island as they prepare for careers on — and under — the water. Sophomores choose from seven three-year CTE programs like vessel operations, aquaculture and marine biology research, gaining hands-on experience in the classroom and in the field. The professional diving track, the only one of its kind in the nation, allows students to earn college-level scientific diving certification junior year; some seniors obtain divemaster certification, opening the door to careers in the recreational dive industry. Everyone, according to their specialty, pitches in on school-wide efforts like the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore the ecosystem of New York Harbor by cultivating and caring for the bivalves in local waters.
CURTIS HIGH SCHOOL
105 Hamilton Ave., Staten Island
Four-year graduation rate: 74%
The crenelated, castle-like walls of Curtis High School, perched on a hilltop in St. George, houses one of the city’s most demanding CTE programs — and one of its most successful, boasting an average 100 percent pass rate on state certification exams. With a maximum 340 students and up-to-date facilities, the nursing program has produced hundreds of medical professionals since its inception. After two years of preparatory classes, students begin two years of study either in the practical nursing program, which requires 798 clinical hours in addition to the classroom curriculum, or the nursing assistant program, which calls for a lighter load of 108 clinical hours. Both tracks culminate in New York State certification tests that allow students to enter the job market immediately after graduation.
FIORELLO H. LAGUARDIA HIGH SCHOOL OF MUSIC & ART AND PERFORMING ARTS
100 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan
Four-year graduation rate: 99%
Internationally renowned as “the ‘Fame’ school,” LaGuardia is the nation’s first public high school dedicated to the performing and visual arts, established in 1936 — and the only one of the city’s specialized high schools that relies on auditions, not the SHSAT test, for entry. The demanding curriculum pairs intense conservatory instruction in six artistic pursuits — dance, drama, instrumental music, vocal music, fine arts and technical theater — with college-prep academics, including 21 AP classes. Two to four periods each day are devoted to studio classes in each student’s specialty. Dance majors, for example, are on their feet for an 80-minute ballet class and another 80-minute modern dance class daily. The school’s huge, modernist building on the Upper West Side contains two theaters, a concert hall, multiple specialized studio classrooms and an art gallery, all of which host innumerable shows and performances, including a major musical production. This year, it’s “All Shook Up,” based on the music of Elvis Presley.
BAYSIDE HIGH SCHOOL
32-24 Corporal Kennedy St., Queens
Four-year graduation rate: 99%
The sports medicine and management CTE program at Bayside High School in northern Queens gives students a head start on a hot career field. This well-designed four-year sequence of coursework provides a grounding in anatomy, nutrition and injury prevention — the necessary basics for physical therapy, rehabilitation and coaching jobs. A partnership with SUNY’s Farmingdale State College allows students to gain up to 19 credits in college-accredited courses; they can also earn NCSF Personal Trainer certification and CPR/AED certification through the American Heart Association. An array of internships, workplace visits and job-shadowing opportunities gives kids a taste of real-world experience. Bayside’s impressive athletic facilities — three gyms, multiple weight and workout rooms, tennis and handball courts, and a pool — support 34 PSAL teams.
ACADEMY FOR CAREERS IN TELEVISION & FILM
1-50 51st Ave., Queens
Four-year graduation rate: 98%
A funky modern building on the Hunters Point waterfront houses this popular school that prepares students for both college and career. Everyone takes four years of video production courses, taught by industry pros with extensive movie, TV and advertising experience. The work grounds kids in the crucial “below the line” or technical roles that are the lifeblood of the film industry. Students have access to professional equipment they can use for both class assignments and independent projects; the campus is equipped with three soundstages, an editing lab, prop and wardrobe rooms, a set construction shop and a sound mixing studio. Many snag internships at local powerhouses like WNET and Silvercup Studios. Meanwhile, kids keep up with a full college-prep academic program, with six AP classes available.