When I applied to high school I navigated through the process nervously but with a clear plan. I knew the steps to take, the “good” schools to go to — these were the schools to put first and second on my list, I knew how to speak thoughtfully about myself for my Beacon interview, how to unscramble a paragraph for the SHSAT, and I knew how to pirouette for my LaGuardia audition. In a nutshell, I was prepared.
I felt the stress of the process, but the stress I experienced was, well, relatively small. I was energized and excited. I envisioned myself in schools with small classes, art supplies and engaged teachers, and this was all because I was given the tools that allowed me to see myself excelling in rigorous environments.
I also remember being conscious of how many other students in my middle school were applying to the school I go to now, Beacon High School, a well resourced school that’s more competitive than Harvard. I did not think of the miniscule acceptance rate; instead, I thought that I had pretty good odds, and I did. I had good odds because I am a privileged student in an unequal school system. I come from a neighborhood that is also mainly white and wealthy, and through this, I have benefitted from public schools that have more resources, better teachers and helped me to grow as a person. These are the facts of the system, the New York City public school system, the largest and most segregated in the country.
My experience is the norm for students who come from similar racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, and this is not because I am smarter or more deserving. We regret to inform you, the system is broken and unequal and it CANNOT go on like this anymore. Students, ALL students, not just those of privilege, have a right to an education of equal quality. We have a right to learn beside and from students of differing backgrounds.
This is no radical statement, simply an extension of how a public school system is supposed to function. Yet, in 2018, 64 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we have to continue to fight for our rights. So, today we will make history. We are the students and we are angry and we are tired and WE are going to fight for ourselves and each other and for all the students before and after us and no one can stop us.