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Raising up scholars

"Raising up scholars" Continued...

Issue: "Who will vote?," April 21, 2012

Generally, scholars find themselves going from low-income, ethnic middle schools to affluent white high schools. Learning to navigate among Ralph Lauren sweaters is often more difficult than taking Advanced Placement (AP) calculus. "Private schools were not built for our kids. We are sending our kids off to a hostile environment," says Hurlbut.

Anur says making the transition to Ballard High, with a student body of 1,600 mostly upper-middle-class white kids, was like stepping into another culture. Slang from her inner-city middle school-"tight," "wicked," and "rad"-was foreign to her classmates at Ballard. Anur says that because she is Muslim, kids were often "clueless and afraid to talk" to her. After one discussion of the Middle East during a sophomore history course, Anur's classmates were so careful not to offend her that she felt ostracized. Anur said that because she is black, one of her Ballard counselors told her not to bother taking AP classes because she wouldn't be able to pass them.

The statistics are not good for minority students. William Bowen, in his book Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, analyzed data collected from 19 elite schools and found that only 6 percent of the students at these institutions are first-generation college students. Education expert Anthony Carnevale and economist Stephen Rose found that 74 percent of students at 146 top colleges came from the wealthiest quarter of the population. Only 6 percent came from the poorest quarter.

Through an intensive, supportive program, Rainier Scholars have a 100 percent college acceptance rate, with scholars attending 51 colleges, including Stanford and Yale. "We don't want scholars wondering about going to college-we want them thinking about which college they will choose," said Hurlbut.

This fall, Anur will attend Pacific Lutheran University, her top choice. Anur's victory is also a victory for the parents and teachers who saw potential and gave her a chance to rise above the statistics.

-Kira Clark is a Virginia journalist


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