My parents were not born in the United States and they never graduated from high school. They went through financial instability and tragedy throughout their lives and the conditions they lived pushed them to immigrate to the United States. Navigating the education system was foreign to them.
In 8th grade I heard someone talking about the SHSAT-- the ticket to better schools, schools where kids had their own books, multiple classes to choose from-- but I didn’t even know what the SHSAT stood for. No one at my school encouraged me to prepare for it.
I landed at an unscreened public school in the Bronx. When I walked through the doors, I believed it would be a challenge -- what I’d read about the school sounded great -- but in reality I entered a high school that was performing below standards -- where just 1 in 7 students enters the school performing on grade level. I knew there were better schools, but I couldn’t transfer. I was trapped, so I had to make most of what I was given. We got out of school at 3:15pm. I guess they thought the extra time would help us catch up. But we didn’t learn much. I tried striving for better with little to no guidance.
Fortunately, during my freshman year of high school, I had the luxury of applying to and ultimately being accepted into SEO Scholars, a free college prep program for low-income students. At SEO I felt challenged- for once- but I also learned how far I was behind. Thus began the difficult task of trying to catch up to high schoolers attending specialized, affluent, or properly developed high schools. I felt vulnerable, confused, and a loss of self-worth but gradually with the assistance of my friends at SEO, I understood the material. SEO cultivated an environment where I could have intellectual conversations, collaborations which signified pushing each other to reach beyond our limits, and build trust.
Now I’m a senior and I am close to submitting majority of the colleges I am applying for. I plan to pursue Computer Science as my major and I hope to double major in Engineering. But I’m ultimately disappointed there has to be programs like SEO Scholars, Opportunity Network, Minds Matter, One Goal, Bottomline, Prep for Prep and so many more programs that have to help kids like me- kids the inadequate education system has left behind. Because the reality is -- for every one of me, there are 9 more still left behind. Now, what will you do after hearing our stories? Will you still sit idly as a moderator or will you help us take charge of building an education system determined to adhere to the outcries of students like me?