Like a typical high school student, whining and complaining may slip from my half-chatty, half-yawning mouth. My friends and I may vent about schoolwork and grades, but then I also think about how lucky I am to actually be pushed to do this work.
My school, Eagle Rock High School, is an International Baccalaureate school. This means that we partake in a rigorous and global program/curriculum that is supposed to benefit the students for the world they will live in.
In LAUSD, there are seven public and three charter “IB” schools. Even without the program, our school has a great support system, such as a welcoming college office.
On top of that, it also has a good amount of teachers who truly care about their students’ success and paths towards college. That is when my mind wanders to other paths I could have taken.
There are other schools in my proximity that don’t really offer students these opportunities and supportive teachers. I know that if I or any of my friends had gone to these schools, we would end up as completely different people, teens who didn’t have the motivation to pursue something like college.
It is in these types of schools that dropouts are high and the graduation rate is lower. And it makes me sad to see these types of kids in my neighborhood. Because they walk around every day, trying to make a living (whether for their sake, or their families’ sake) and don’t even realize that they have so much more potential than what they were told to believe. Whether they were told this by their family or their school, it is here, the very places where they should feel enriched, where these kids are getting teared down.
Who knows how many potential engineers, doctors, artists and musicians roam these L.A streets, but none of them having the courage to chase and fight for that dream. None of them getting the “I believe in you”, rather they get the “That career doesn’t fit your type”. And because all these kids have this mentality that they’re not allowed to venture outside of their neighborhood, let alone their capability, they grow up and teach that to their own children.
Maybe this teaching isn’t intentional, but remember that kids can learn by just watching what’s in their environment. And when they see an environment of dropouts and minimum wagers, they feel like that’s all they’ll ever be good for. And I want to tell these kids that they have the power to break this cycle. By making those dreams a reality and sharing these passions with their friends, it will create the best kind of epidemic among LAUSD students. They’ll feel like they have a bigger purpose in life, beyond what they encounter every day.
However, the only way this can begin is to start in the places where they are in the most: home, school and community. For home, let’s face reality: we may be able to tell students to talk to their parents about college, but for some kids, that’s easier said than done. Some may not have someone to turn to at home, and this is where we can input school.
I would love to see funding for more counselors, who talk to at risk kids on weekly or monthly basis, and the kids can feel like they have someone cheering them on. It doesn’t have to be pushy, or forcing them to talk. It could even be a group matter. Kids could get their friends to join, so they don’t feel alone. Maybe it can even be a cross-school program because some kids might feel like the idea of “counseling” is stupid. If they see that other kids of all social hierarchy are doing it, they won’t feel embarrassed to do it.
The main purpose of the counseling is to break these teens’ mindset that “I’ll only be good for this or that…being in that other career is for these types of kids.” I want them to realize that they can be whatever they want, because you have people who want you to succeed. I’ve talked to adults in my life who always say, “I wish I had access to people and programs when I was your age.”
High school isn’t just a gap between adolescence and adulthood, it should be the enlightening bridge to the rest of these kids’ lives. Even if they may not completely know what they want to do as a career or passion once they graduate, high school should at least be the platform for gaining that fire and drive to do something. All I ask, is that by way of more access to career and college programs/counseling, EVERY student in LAUSD can have a fair chance at fulfilling his or her potential and dreams.