NEXT FALL, I will be a freshman at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and the first college student in my family.
But my path to Augsburg is not typical.
During my junior year in 2015, I decided to leave Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis. Too often students would argue with teachers. In some instances, fights would break out in the hallways. This chaos would make it difficult for me to communicate with teachers and get to my classes in peace.
I had heard about the Post-secondary Enrollment Option, which allows high school students to take college courses and gain dual credit for high school and college. I started taking PSEO classes full-time during the spring semester of my junior year. I now travel about an hour-and-a-half during the week to attend McNally Smith College of Music in downtown St. Paul, and I will finish high school with college credits.
I have some good memories from Roosevelt, but I needed to be in a place that let me focus.
Roosevelt Principal Michael Bradley agrees that things are not perfect at Roosevelt, but he says it’s a work in progress. His goal is to create an “inclusive environment,” he said. He points to renovations, such as a new auditorium, and that a more visible encouragement in the arts has become important in the school.
High schools can start creating better environments for students with simple things. For example, heat strikes in Minnesota can be bad for students because older school buildings do not have air conditioning. Adding air conditioning to buildings may come off as being a silly proposal, but how can someone concentrate while sweating their life away?
In fact, Peter Demerath, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, said there may be some truth in students’ efforts being a reflection of the physical state of the school.
Also, one of the main things every single school should focus on is building a connection between students and staff. These relationships are significant because they connect students to their teachers and show students that teachers care about their educational lives.
“These strong relationships with teachers showcases their belief in their students,” Demerath said.
Aaron Young, a senior at St. Paul Johnson, said his school “has its pros and cons.” However, he is thankful to attend Johnson because of the friendly staff, but most importantly the opportunities such as the open Advanced Placement classes. The school has opportunities for students to take great steps toward their educational goals.
Young found his opportunity in AP courses and is taking advantage of it, just like I found my opportunity in PSEO and took advantage of it.
While I still take math and English classes at McNally Smith College of Music, my favorite courses are teaching me about music technology. I now understand what I want to study when I go to Augsburg College next fall. I now know there are jobs I’m interested in related to music.
At the end of the day, every student is different. Not everyone has the same interests or the same strengths. We all need different opportunities.
That also means that the paths some of us take to get to college may be different.