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K-12 Education

Detroit student fights for equal education

My parents came to the United States, almost two decades ago, in pursuit of better educational opportunities for their children. They envisioned an educational system that would provide us with the necessary resources to succeed in this country. They pictured a system different than Mexico’s, where only the children of the elite received a quality education. They were instead welcomed by a failing school district that would eventually find itself over half a billion dollars in debt.

Diego Navarrete

Making national headlines, the deteriorating state of Detroit Public Schools is the epitome of the racial and socioeconomic injustices that plague the current state of public education in America. Centuries of oppression have subconsciously impacted school policies and state legislation, creating institutional barriers for students of color.

Through the Congress of Communities Latino Youth Council, I and five other members created a program that began to combat the educational disparities in Detroit Public Schools. The program, called Owning It: Our Education (O.I.O.E.), sought to provide students with the resources our school system had deprived us of. We offered tutoring, standardized test preparation, mentorships, and field trips to cultural exhibits. Our goal was to take strides, no matter how small, to combat the overwhelming education gap within urban and suburban schools. What initially began as a 10-session program, has recently expanded to cover other initiatives that aim to encourage the educational success of students of color in Detroit. Owning It: Our Education has turned into a movement, empowering youth in Detroit to take ownership of their education.

While the program we created hardly solved the complex issue of educational inequalities in the city of Detroit, it sparked a revolutionary flame that could be vital in reforming the system in the future. As an inner-city student of color, I am painstakingly aware of the larger, systemic reasons for which I am not expected to succeed. I am also aware that I have a fundamental, human right to an education: an education that is well-resourced, properly funded, and on par with every other school in America.

For my family, the fight for a better education did not stop at the border. It’s a fight I will continue, with a goal to revolutionize the current state of public education, making it reflective of America’s diverse society. I want to help create a system that is worthy of the sacrifices parents like mine make in hopes of giving their child a quality education; a system that acknowledges that every child as an asset to our country’s future.

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