Lessons from the Civic Forum

Look no further than your local urban school district to see the severity of racial inequality in the United States. Callie, from the Civic Forum, and I realized this due to the glaring achievement gaps between students of color and white students at our high schools, in Pittsburgh and Seattle, respectively. Part of the reason for this is lack of support. By informing students on how to handle the challenges of the college application process, my Live It project addresses the need to work to reduce racial inequality and prepare for 21st century prosperity, by addressing and acknowledging the shortcomings of our education system.

Watching inequality play out, such as the disturbing rates at which many colored students leave school and end up incarcerated, should disappoint us, but also seek to improve our understanding of how to make schools greater agents of change. In this case, change will not come until we face the issue of race head on. We must come to a public consensus where we recognize that race and background do not determine a student’s potential and that every student who comes through the public school system should receive full support all the way through graduation and into college. If we came to this consensus, we would not idly observe racial imbalance unjustly widen in dropout and incarceration rates as is happening today. Educating everyone rests at the heart of eliminating inequalities and pursuing future prosperity. Instead, our cities’ schools lack the resources to adequately help students through the college application process.

This leaves students to their own devices to figure out one of the most monumental processes of their life. In high school, I also saw many older students passing down their advice to students who were just entering into the application process. At times, they passed down extremely valuable advice. The idea for my project came from these discussions, when I realized every student who advances through this process essentially becomes an expert on it, in possession of thousands of dollars worth of information. With all of this expertise, why not compile it into a useful resource for as many students as possible to access in a far more efficient manner than word of mouth?

Much still needs to happen on the broader level, from policy to public support. But this project lines up with Callie’s vision for turning leadership into more of a partnered relationship with students in order to build from the ground up. What better way to do so than for us to directly combat the shortcomings and inequalities afflicting our generation?

My project does that. It operates on the belief that information on the college application process should be openly available to all prospective college students, no matter what background or school they come from. It aims to capture the voices of current college students in an effort to address the needs of prospective college students. While on one hand it signals the need for greater action, it also has the potential to make a difference in hundreds of individual lives. I would call that a start.

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