As an educator, it is easy for me to lose sight of my larger mission while I get wrapped up in the lessons, grading, and the millions of tasks that come with my role in the classroom. This past week, I had the opportunity to visit colleges in Southern California with 120 high school juniors and gained clarity and inspiration as to why college experiences are a necessary part of student development, especially for students of color.
The charter network that I am a part of prides itself in its college-going mission, our goal is to “empower students for college, career, and community leadership and share our practices on a national scale.” Our teachers and staff work tirelessly, like other educators in urban education, to disrupt the inequities that many of our students have faced for years before they step foot onto our campuses.
A Go College article emphasizing the importance of early college prep explained that in order “for a student to be truly prepared for college, parents, and children need to begin thinking about, and discussing, higher education goals as early as primary school.” While many students around the country benefit from this privilege, for the majority of my students, this emphasis does not start until they set foot on our campus as ninth graders. As we toured through the various campuses, it became evident that the tour groups present and even the families sitting in admissions offices did not look like our students. This disparity was a hard reality for me to take in but also provided me with the motivation to fuel the work that takes place inside our classrooms.
It was particularly inspiring to hear one of my students call out the fact that the students on the campus we were touring were predominantly white, she went on to add that she was going to be the difference and change that trend with her admission and attendance. Students went on to add that amidst the college admissions scandal, they knew that their years of essay writing, attending office hours and engaging in extracurricular activities would merit their acceptances to the universities we visited. Their attitude was similar to mine as I was going through the college admissions process, but once I stepped foot onto my college campus, it became clear that the support my teachers provided for me would be present even past high school graduation day. Any educator knows that a teacher’s work is never done, we must continue to create powerful college experiences to increase the exposure our students of color have within higher education.
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