AFH Photo Janna Mach
I grew up in Jordan as an immigrant from Iraq. The first day I entered my high school classroom I was shocked -- food was everywhere on the floor, there were broken desks and tables, and kids were throwing papers at each other. The teacher just sat on his desk holding a cigar and drinking coffee and hitting anyone who was late or forgot homework.
I was often late because I couldn’t afford the money for a bus, so I had to walk. That was when my suffering began.
In Amman, Jordan, education mostly happened on the streets. I needed to support my family. I continued to wake up at 6 am, but then skipped school to work illegally as a trash picker. It was a disgusting job, but it paid me good money.
I walked from corner to corner to collect what could be sold, like metal or furniture, and then I would throw it in a truck. After six hours of sweating under the sun, we arrived at the storage facility, where we emptied the truck and were paid the equivalent of $15.
At the end of the day, I walked to the river so I could wash the smell off me.
Today, instead of running to gather garbage, I run from class to class to pursue my education. I wake up at 6 am excited for the opportunity to attend a school where teachers care about you and work hard because they want to see you succeed.
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Kiara Maher / AFH Photo
Isabella Carrasco, a sophomore at Boston Latin School, was one of more than 1,000 Boston Public Schools students who recently marched outside the State House to protest massive proposed budget cuts.
As a multitude of BPS students walked out of classes that March day, with many attending the rally, Carrasco says she knew she took a risk but felt the issue was too important to ignore.
“At first I was afraid to even go,” says Carrasco, “but then I decided there needs to be something done.”
The action was followed by this opening paragraph of a Boston Globe story: “Days after thousands of students walked out to protest budget cuts, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday that he plans to announce that Boston high schools will be spared the controversial reductions that endangered popular programs and teacher jobs.”
No matter how the details of the budget process shake out, students say they came to realize the power of protest.
“I feel very good because not only did I help myself and my school but I also helped other people and other schools,” says Brianna Ducharme, a sophomore at Boston Latin Academy.
After all, teens say, it’s not only adults who are invested in the future of BPS.
“I feel like the walkout was a chance for students to actually show how much they care for their education,” says Nick Barbosa, a sophomore at BLA.
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AFH photo by Rayshana Jenkins
While I was applying to colleges, I asked myself whether that should really be my next step. One of my worries included the price tag. Not being able to afford outrageously high tuitions is a major reason that many students don’t attend or defer college.
“Up to 40 percent of low-income students who are accepted into college in the spring never make it to the first day of class in the fall,” according to an August 2015 article in the The Hechinger Report. “They’re stymied by tuition sticker shock, Kafkaesque paper requirements and a quiet, corrosive feeling that they don’t belong.”
Despite these obstacles, many parents and school officials continue to push students down the university path at all costs even when there are professional and trade alternatives to success.
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Janna Mach / AFH Photo
If you go to graduation ceremonies at many colleges, the number of minority students you may see is low compared to others.
The statistics back this up.
According to a January article on “Nearly one-third of students entering two- or four-year colleges in the United States each year are first- generation. These students are also more likely to be minorities, and they are far less likely to graduate: In six years, 40 percent of rst-generation students will have earned
a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or a certificate, vs. 55 percent of their peers
whose parents attended college.” Minorities often are the first in their family
to go to college, and for many of them, English is not their first language.
When these students attend college, they are often exposed to a different culture than what they are used to.
At home, talking about college may not be a regular thing.
At school, the focus is many times on getting today’s assignments done, not about tomorrow’s plans.
Getting into college is a great accomplishment, but the work doesn’t end there.
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Below is an edited version of remarks presented by Boston Student Advisory Council members Fania Joseph and Kenny Feng at “A Dialogue on Race,” a conference hosted by Teen Empowerment, in Boston, in March.
FJ: Race matters when it comes to education. We want to see more teachers of color in our schools. Eighty-six percent of Boston Public Schools students identify as black, Latino, or Asian, but only 37 percent of the teachers in the district are teachers of color. This is a problem across the whole country, and it impacts how and what we learn.
KF: Race also matters when it comes to school discipline. According to BPS data from 2014-2015, 7.6 percent of black students and 4.4 percent of Latino students received out-of-school suspensions, compared to 1.5 percent of their white peers.
FJ: This is a huge part of the school-to- prison pipeline that we want to put an end to.
KF: In October, BSAC did a Listening Project and talked to around 300 Boston students about their experiences with school discipline and zero-tolerance policies. Students who had been suspended said it made them feel “not human,” “like they were getting bullied,” and like they did not “want to try at all.”
FJ: This is not OK. BSAC and others
have worked hard to pass laws so that in most cases, out-of-school suspension is
a last resort and that schools have to try alternatives rst, like restorative justice. Circle practice is a form of a restorative justice that can be used to repair harms in a community. Individuals sit in a circle and develop solutions together through conversation.
KF: Come talk to us after for more information and to get one of our student rights cards.
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