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African American High School Students To Be Featured In Essay Collection

Mar 05, 2014 07:29PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Twenty African American students from Oswego and Oswego East high schools will be featured in a collection of essays, called Reactions: A collection of African American Student Essays.

These essays reflect on the students’ unique experiences and challenges as African Americans within the classroom. On Wednesday, the students met with Dr. Lourdes Ferrar for lunch. Ferrar previously led the students through two, five-hour sessions in her African American “Grooming For Excellence Leadership Academy.”

Ferrar provided the students with feedback on their essays and spoke with them about their experience. The African American students said that being outperformed in subjects like reading and math is one of the major challenges that needs to be addressed. 

“At first I came into the academy and then realized there was an education gap,” Oswego East sophomore Chaz Clark said. “It’s a big problem now, and we really need to change it.”

“The gap is a real thing,” Ferrar said. Only 37 percent of African American students demonstrated proficiency in the mathematics portion of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test state-wide, according to ISAT data Ferrar used in her presentation. That number is slightly better at 40 percent for reading. By comparison, 70 percent of white students demonstrated proficiency in reading and math on the ISAT. 

Ferrar issued a challenge to the students. 

“It’s your job, and it’s your responsibility to change the image of the African American community in the United States,” she said.

While students are pressured to conform to outside influences, Ferrar mentioned that same race peer pressure also exists. African Americans who excel are often accused of “acting white” or thinking they are better than their peers. 

“The challenges we face are real,” she said. 

Oswego East junior, Ebony Graves, saw a lot of value in attending the academy. 
“It kind of opened my eyes to how I relate with a lot of the kids,” she said. “It helped me to grow and try to be a leader.” 

Ferrar also told the students that she wants them to be recognized for their academic abilities. No one will be surprised at their athletic abilities, their dancing, or their ability to make you laugh, because that is what is expected, Ferrar said. 

“You have to get involved with things that involve writing and math,” she added.

The students who participated in the academy will also be part of a graduation ceremony on May 5. Ferrar has also conducted academies for Hispanic students and English Learners within the district.

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