Closing the Gap
DeAnna Lockett, Division 2, 12th grade

So many people think that to make a difference in the world you have to be an adult with an established career and a lot of money— or a huge following. However, none of this is true. A teenager like me can make just as big as an impact by just speaking kind words to strangers as a millionaire can by donating money to hungry children. My good service to the world can start right now, right where I am, right here for the people who are inspired by my journey of life.

As a young African-American woman, I’ve always strived to be a light for other African-American females, young and old. Ever since sixth grade I have been the only black girl attending Westminster School at Oak Mountain. Though I protested to my parents, they kept telling me that going to this new school would challenge me academically and would pave the way for other girls like me. Even though I was young, I understood what they were saying, but I was not fully convinced of why it was all that important.

Throughout my years at Westminster, I always felt like I was missing something. Although I am far from being an under-achieving student or coming from a low-income family, I did not always fit in with my wealthy, suburban Republican classmates. During class discussions debating about presidential campaigns or immigration policy, I felt like I was the only who used their voice to speak for minorities or for poor people. Of course I had plenty of friends to hangout with inside and outside of school, and we had no problem making small talk. However, when it came to the bigger issues in life, no one, not even my teachers, seemed to share my viewpoints.

Now that I’m in twelfth grade I understand that life is not meant to be easy or convenient. And me making a difference in this world is not meant for my benefit. My struggle is entirely meant to make the life of the person who comes after me a little bit easier and more convenient. For example, I am extremely grateful to my parents for working hard to have the financial ability to enroll me into such an enriching school such as Westminster. Not to mention, I am forever grateful to the twenty black students who entered white public schools for the first time in Alabama in 1963 (“This Day in History: The Desegregation of Alabama Schools in 1963,” para. 1). I cannot imagine the torture and humiliation that they experienced, but they endured it so that children like me who would follow in their footsteps would not have to endure it.

In the 1970s across the state of Alabama, whites who were angered by the desegregation of public schools moved to areas in Shelby County and built suburban neighborhoods and schools, thus desegregating schools all over again (“Reinventing Our Community: Race still looms over Birmingham area in varied complex ways,” para. 31-32). Today, in Alabama those public schools suchlike Spain Park High School and Mountain Brook High School are still highly populated by white students because those residential areas are highly populated by white people. For example, The Higley 1000 reports that today about ninety-eight percent of Mountain Brook’s residents are white. These schools offer great athletic and academic programs because they have more than enough funding. However, as history shows, these luxuries were meant to cater to those who live in those school zones which happens to mostly be white people. African-American families are forced to either move to areas like Hoover so that their kids can receive quality educations or to send their kids to the public schools in black-populated areas that the state has ranked to be a part of the failing school systems in Alabama. According to The College Board’s statement in “Reaching the Top: A Report of the National Task Force on Minority High Achievement,” African American students typically have lower test scores and grades than Asians and Whites as early as second or third grade which is a pattern that continue over the course of their school careers. After the influence Brown v. Board of Education case died down, the achievement gap between blacks and white grew as schools became less integrated (“Segregation Now…,” para. 10). Therefore, isolating black students from white students is not the answer. Just like me, any other black student could feel like he’s missing something in his education.

Since I believe that I must be the change that I wish to see in the world I would like to become a school administrator in Alabama and possibly become a part of the U.S. Department of Education. My dream is to form truly integrated school systems in Alabama and the rest of the South where white and black educators can help white and black students excel teaching both European history and African history. I envision school systems in the future that do not have to deal with achievement gaps in the black community. First, I would like to begin with building private and public schools especially for African-Americans that perform on the same level as the predominately white suburban schools. In no way do I wish to separate black and white children from learning and growing together, but considering that school systems have favored the white community, I believe that it is time to give African-American students the chance to thrive. Black students deserve to have black educators who can inspire them to work diligently and believe in themselves.

All in all, I will continue to change the world that I live in by changing the face of school systems in Birmingham and then across the country. I want my life’s journey to empower and inspire African-American children to follow their dreams with hard work and sophistication no matter what the world tells them that they are incapable of achieving.
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