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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘An A in Harlem vs. an A in a majority-white school’

Teens Take Charge publicizes students’ views on school segregation in New York City. Photo: Brett Rawson

When Yacine Fall went from a Harlem middle school to a selective public high school five miles away, she discovered “an A in Harlem was not the same as an A in a majority-white high school,” she wrote for a podcast by a group called Teens Take Charge.

Fall was one of the few students at her middle school to comb through the high school catalog in search of better opportunities, she writes.  She gained admission to a public high school with selective admissions, Beacon High School, where she’s now a senior.

At her old school, “poverty is high and expectations are low,” she wrote. Teachers quit after a year or two. “What happened in five miles that determined who got to graduate, who went to college, who got to explore their talents, who learned to question?”

Being an A student at her Harlem middle school didn’t prepare her for an “elite education system,” Fall writes.

I was a black girl who was the daughter of immigrants. Education was my only hope for redefining my life. . . . I walked into a school where my black and brown peers struggled to stay afloat and were barely passing their classes. I came into a school where we were made to leave our identities and struggles out of the classroom. My elite school thought diversity ended when you put black and white students together and did not create a space for us to learn from those identities. No one told me about the rooms and spaces I would need to create for myself in order to survive.

Learning how to meet higher expectations — and create your own space — will be valuable to her in college.

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