In East San Jose, college is as possible as A-G
Although it’s only two months into the school year, I already know that 250 of my 400 classmates at Overfelt High in East San Jose will not go to college. How can I predict that dismal future? I have researched the statistics and I have experienced the uneven school curriculum firsthand.
Currently, two-thirds of the graduates from the East Side Union High School District do not qualify for a UC or CSU system school. To me, that is too many being told they cannot achieve and they cannot dream, too many in a community where “no’s” are much easier to come by than an encouraging “yes.”
Students can graduate with straight As from an East Side Union high school and still not be eligible for a four-year state college. Why? Because they were not enrolled in the right courses.
The A-G requirements are the classes high school students must pass in order to be eligible for a University of California or California State University school. The A-G requirements differ only slightly from our current graduation requirements – one more year of math (for three years total), two years of foreign language, and one year of fine arts (we currently require one year of foreign language or fine arts.).
I persoally did not learn about the A-G requirements from a counselor or my school. I was not involved in AVID, Puente, the Electronics Academy, or any other small learning community that guides students to college. I had to fend for myself and find my own way to college. Fortunately, I found Californians for Justice my freshman year. This non-profit organization broadened my horizons. Through CFJ, I learned about the A-G requirements and how to challenge myself, to talk to my counselors, and to demand that I was placed in AP courses. I know that not every student is as fortunate as I am. I have seen family members and close friends drop out of high school because they did not feel challenged. No one reached out to them; they just slipped through the cracks in our system.
Eighty percent of respondents in a student-led CFJ survey of East Side Union students, parents, and community members said they believe that it is imperative to enact the A-G requirements as the graduation requirements. Many of us are low-income students of color fighting for our chance to pursue higher education, to reach our full potential, to be the doctors, the lawyers, the politicians and every other profession only our dreams can capture. We need these requirements to make our dreams a reality.
Tomorrow, at the next East Side Union school board meeting, we are calling on board members to vote yes on a resolution that would make the A-G courses a default curriculum for 9th and 10th graders. This resolution is a significant first step towards ensuring that all of our students graduate with options for college and 21st century careers. The A-G curriculum adds just three classes to our high school’s graduation requirement. So why haven’t we made a small change to ensure that all of our students graduate prepared for college and 21st century careers?
Askari V. Gonzalez is a senior at William C. Overfelt High School in East San Jose who plans on attending a 4-year university in Fall 2011, with a double-major in creative writing and political science. He aspires to be an author as well as a public high school teacher in a low-income community and eventually to become involved in politics as a school trustee and future senator of California. He wrote this piece for the San Jose Mercury News Opinion Page.