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African American Students Publish Essays on Defining Means to Achieve the American Dream

Sep 22, 2014 08:39PM ● Published by Steven Jack

African American students in Community Unit School District 308 have now documented what they believe will support their efforts to achieve the American dream. 

District consultant Dr. Lourdes Ferrer worked with students and their parents to compile a collection of 20 student essays on the subject in a new book, Reactions: A Collection of African American Essays, available on

The book served as a way for these African American students to explain how today’s educational system both supports and at times, fails them. Their essays explain how students’ educational experiences mold them for a realistic, yet hopeful future. 

The proceeds from the sale of the book will be used in the formulation of a scholarship fund for African American students.

Ferrer is a nationally recognized scholar, researcher, author and educator who studies the achievement gap among students of diverse backgrounds. She worked with select African American students in the district for much of the 2013-14 school year, helping them improve their employability and sharing her passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

“This project began as a way for School District 308 to do better by our students, especially our student groups,” said Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Judith Minor. “Historically, these students have been underrepresented in our honors and advanced placement courses om District 308. It is our responsibility to cultivate the development of all of our students.” 

The students who submitted essays also took part in Ferrer’s Grooming for Excellence Student Leadership Academy, where they had several conversations on why some African American students were not as successful as they could be. The essays in the book are a synthesis of those conversations, with an emphasis on developing a better educational system for all students. 

Only 29 percent of African American 11th grade students in 2013 passed the reading portion of the Prairie State Achievement Examination, according to Ferrer’s prologue for the book. Because African Americans are the nation’s second-largest minority group, these soon-to-be adults will greatly impact the economic future of the United States, she said.

The student authors are: 

  • Bakari C. Caldwell, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Breanna C. Jackson, Oswego East, Jr.
  • Chaz Xavier Clark, Oswego East, Jr.
  • Deana A. Pieters, Oswego East, Jr.
  • Ebony Isis Graves, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Ian M. Ross, Oswego East, Graduated
  • Imani J. Baker, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Jacob F. Hicks, Oswego East, Jr.
  • Jahani’ I. Pittman, Oswego East, Soph.
  • James Jones, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Jordyn M. Jones, Oswego East, Soph.
  • Jelani A. Pieters, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Kiersten A. Rasberry, Oswego East, Soph.
  • Laura N. Ndialeloc, Oswego High School, Soph.
  • Milin T. Smith, Oswego East, Jr.
  • Morgan A. Harris, Oswego East, Jr.
  • N’crai I. Pittman, Oswego East, Graduated
  • Richard A. Webb, Oswego East, Sr.
  • Syntyche J. Kanku, Oswego High School, Jr.
  • Zaria Renee Winkfield, Oswego East, Jr.
Education, News oswego school district 308

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