For many students in New York City, Stuyvesant High School is one of the most prestigious magnet high schools to get into. For families like mine, it was more – a stepping stone and chance to learn and go onto a good college and better life. Stuyvesant High School required passing a city-wide two and one-half hour entrance exam - only approximately three per cent of applicants are accepted. Back then, you either made the cut-off or went to your local high school. Families with better means would send their children to exam preparation classes or hire study coaches. They most likely also lived in better neighborhoods with better schools. None of this was an option for folks like us. Our neighborhood Junior High School, Corlears JHS 56, was not exactly a mecca for learning despite some very devoted teachers. In fact, JHS 56 officially closed in 2006 due to poor performance.
I will always remember the kindness and generosity of one junior high school teacher, Mr. Mandel. I probably would not be where I am today without his help. Mr. Mandel was my temporary homeroom teacher for only 4 months. He had his plate full managing our homeroom and his other classes. However, he offered his lunch time to tutor me upon learning that I was trying out for Stuyvesant. Mr. Mandel gave up his lunch time to review math problems with me. He did not have to. He could have relaxed and enjoyed his break but he didn’t. So thanks to him, I was the only one who was admitted to Stuyvesant from JHS 56 that year. Otherwise, I would have gone to my neighborhood high school, Seward Park High School (aka "Sewage" Park), which didn’t offer good prospects - it also closed in 2006 for poor performance.
So never overlook doing an act of kindness or expressing gratitude for such acts bestowed upon you. "Little things" can change a life forever.
(Mr. Mandel was transferred from JHS 56 before I was admitted to Stuyvesant High School. I regret not having a chance or way to contact him so I’m saying it here: “Thank you, Mr. Mandel. With all my gratitude. Thank you.”)