Wednesday, September 28, 2011

High School Daze

So, my first text of the morning was telling me that Stuyvesant HS ranked #18 on the US News & World Report's list of Best High Schools for Math & Science, while Brooklyn Technical HS ranked #50. My son & I attended an open house for Stuyvesant last night and this text was follow up, to reinforce that there should be no choice between the two schools; the obvious one to try for is the highest ranked.  (There is another school in the city that ranks higher, Staten Island Technical HS #13, but who goes to Staten Island?)

I feel as if the game has changed since my daughter entered high school in 2002. She attended a small private middle school and went to a pretty small Catholic HS in our neighborhood. She tested/auditioned for the specialized high schools, but it seemed we already knew she was staying in private school. Her father and I didn't want her traveling too far because we wanted her to be able to participate in after school activities and not worry about her safety coming home late. She didn't want to take more tests than needed, so she skipped the whole independent school process. We didn't go to high school fairs or open houses. I wasn't scouring the internet for months in advance and reading reviews or report cards.

This time around? My son has already been accepted to an independent school (that hasn't opened yet) during the early admissions process. I mentioned this is high school, not college, right? Wow, an acceptance? Sounds like the work is done and we should just be sitting back waiting for next year to roll around, right? Wrong. The tuition is almost 60% of my annual salary and we are on the financial aid waiting list (I'm a little curious about who was granted aid if I wasn't deemed needy enough, but ...). Anyway, the process continues and it seems to be a tedious one. September through November are crammed with fairs, open houses, buddy days, admission and scholarship exams, applications and letters of reference.

But I had to stop and think, did the process really change or did I change? What I realized is that I need to be more aggressive and vigilant about my son's education than my daughter's. Not because her education was un-important - she is 21 and currently in her second year of graduate school - but because the world views young, Black women differently than young, Black men. My daughter is not perceived as a threat to the establishment so wherever she went to high school, as long as she applied herself, I knew that opportunities for internships, college and careers would be available and not too strenuous. Not so with my son. Young, Black men are viewed as threats, some think they are an endangered species. His intelligence and diligence will not be enough. He needs to be positioned strategically so that he can have access to the most opportunities for future success.

My son has been blessed to have started his education at an African centered, Christian school where he was nurtured with knowledge of self and faith in God. He is currently in a school that continues the tradition of academic excellence and preparation for the next steps in life. It is my job to ensure that his training encompasses a well rounded experience providing access to high quality academics, current or cutting edge technology, facilities that are conducive to learning, appropriate social development and opportunities to serve the community. I am glad that he is taking ownership of his future and is fully engaged in this process. So we press on and the search continues.