More than 50 pre-high from around the city attended a special Open House at BMCC on October 14 to get the inside story on Manhattan Early College School for Advertising (MECA) from its principal, Dr. Matthew Tossman.
“At MECA, we’re all about opening up opportunities for students,” Tossman said in a 45-minute Q&A session with prospective MECA students, many of whom brought their parents. “Every decision we make is geared toward ensuring that our students are gaining the maximum benefit.”
In contrast to traditional high schools, MECA offers a six-year course, enabling students to earn a CTE-endorsed Regents diploma and an Associates Degree from BMCC, while gaining two years of work experience in advertising and media—all free of charge.
“That sets us apart from the 480 four-year high schools in New York City,” Tossman said.
MECA is a partnership involving the New York City Department of Education, CUNY, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, with BMCC playing a lead role.
First-year MECA students take all their classes in the MECA building at on the 411 Pearl Street; they begin taking college courses on the BMCC campus as early as 10th grade.
Getting a jump on college
“By the end of your fourth year at MECA, you’ll have earned 30 college credits,” Tossman said. “If you decide to go on to a senior college at that point, you’ll start as a sophomore.”
Students who stay on for years five and six divide their time between classes in their major and a paid internship that aligns with their skill sets and career goals.
“That means when you apply for your first professional job after college, you’ll already have meaningful experience on your resume,” Tossman said.
As its name suggests, MECA is designed around advertising and media, offering majors in three areas—arts, multimedia and advertising/marketing. But its curricular focus is broader than many might assume.
“Many CTE(Career and Technical Education)programs are designed to prepare you for a specific job or type of job,” Tossman said. “If you know what you want to do, that’s fine—but our goal is to enable you to keep your options open. One of the great things about advertising and media is how big and varied the field is. It encompasses business, technology, marketing, creative writing, and graphic arts among other disciplines.”
Nonetheless, one prospective freshman asked where traditional secondary-level academics—English composition, math, history, basic science—would fit in the MECA curriculum. “Will I study Shakespeare here?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Tossman answered. “Whatever CTE courses you take at MECA will be in addition to the standard high school curriculum.” Indeed, students take no college-level classes in their first year, easing into undergraduate coursework in their second.
Offering high school students a unique option
Lourdes Figueroa had taught high school English for 16 years when she changed jobs—and fields—to become MECA’s guidance counselor. “The idea of offering a young adult the option to stay in school through the first two years of higher education is simply phenomenal,” she said.
A major part of MECA’s appeal, Figueroa noted, is the ongoing, individualized support that’s “baked” into the school’s mission and culture.
“Parents sometimes express concern about our accelerated program,” Figueroa said. “They’ll say, ‘My son isn’t strong in math,’ or ‘My daughter hates science.’ But when they understand the continuity of support that we provide on both campuses at every step of the way, it takes them about five minutes to relax.”
Tossman also reassured the prospective students and family members that enrolling in MECA did not limit their career choices to advertising or media.
“The skill sets you learn at MECA—creative problem solving, strategic thinking, how to communicate your ideas clearly—will help you regardless of what field you go into,” he said. “Our motto is the same as BMCC’s: ‘Start Here, Go Anywhere.’ Our mission is makes certain you can go wherever your skills and passions point.”