Attending a good school in this country is a luxury, and that is wrong. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, not until I found a small charter school in Providence, Rhode Island, and became a 10th grader, again, at the age of 18. Because my mother couldn’t afford a house in an adequate zip code, I was denied an adequate education. And that is not only unfair, but seems to fly in the face of what I’ve learned about democracy. To me, it seems unfair and unequal, and even gives me the sense that there is some agenda behind the scenes to keep me separate, keep me out of the schools that excel, keep me in a place that makes it almost impossible to be my best self or achieve my potential. I really wish great schools had been a part of my life when I was younger. I wish I could have had some stability and been able to grow and learn in a familiar environment. I would have found academic success much sooner if I hadn’t moved so much and been rezoned over and over to schools that didn’t inspire or motivate me.
My Happy Ending
Much to the surprise of many, I’m a sophomore in college now. And despite my sad educational journey, the ending is a happy one. Finally, during my high school years, my mom and I were able to choose a school—and it turned out to be the key to changing my life. From day one, the people at this, my third and final high school, believed in me and gave me the push I needed to see college in my future, to see myself as more than another black male failing classes and dropping out. They didn’t care about my prior high school transcripts; they cared about me. My wish for all students living in poverty is that they can access better and proper schooling without being restricted by their address. They deserve the same education as those lucky enough to have more money and better houses. And so I’m thankful my younger siblings were able to avoid the struggles I endured, moving from school to school. They were given a choice about where to go in the early grades and so despite the inevitably bad schools in our low-income neighborhood, they’ve had educational opportunities that I didn’t. Well, not until a small charter school and its staff on the south side of Providence changed the trajectory of my whole life.
Dashaun Robinson, 22, is a native of Rhode Island and is in his sophomore year at Rhode Island College, a public college in Providence.