I attended public middle school and high school in Northern Virginia in the largest and most diverse public school system in the State. Three thousand students attended T.C. Williams High School (made famous in the movie Remember the Titans) in grades 10-12, with only 20% of us being white or Caucasian. African American and Hispanic students accounted for roughly 60% of the student body. The majority of students came from low-income backgrounds. This was an uneasy mix. Issues with fighting and drugs were common at the school, and more often involved those students of color. The groups were divided. The racial divide was also evident in AP or honors-level courses, with the majority of the students in those classes being white. I discovered there was a mentality among many students that school did not matter, and I found it hard to understand. It was clear that the students who were most disenchanted with school often engaged in criminal behavior, getting into trouble with the law and creating major obstacles in life. As my schooling continued, I discovered that race was not a determining factor. It appeared that students from low-income backgrounds and lower social class were those disproportionately affected by problemsno matter their race. A drug and crime culture lured those disenchanted students out of school and into a cycle of crime and immobility in society. I befriended many people that came from this background, and found that they were no different from me. Many were incredibly smart and funny, and had wisdom that I admired. Yet several of them ended up in jail before graduation and I asked myself, why? Where does this apathy and allure of criminality come from? Most importantly, how do we change it?
Another memory I have from middle school was talking to a Latino student when I brought the prospect of that person going to college. The individual`s response was, Since when do you see a spick in college? The mentality was there from such a young age that it is frightening.
The experiences I had in high school and middle school left a strong impression on me. I contemplated how changes to our society could make a positive impact on low-income students, and focusing on education is one of the factors I believe would have the strongest impact. Specifically, focusing on employing the best possible teachers to impress upon at-risk students from low-income areas at a young age the importance of obtaining an education. Doing so will help to direct those at-risk students away from the risks and negative mentally I witnessed during middle and high school. Knowledge is viral, and the power of knowledge is substantial. Using knowledge through education to attack poverty will help to reduce poverty, crime, and reliance on the government, which in turn will lower the expenditure of tax dollars. Doing so comes back to molding and recruiting the best teachers to focus on the most vulnerable demographics of students. By applying our focus there as a country and a society, we can help to achieve social change through education.