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US High School Puts Minority Students on Career Path

  • Chris Simkins

WASHINGTON - An educational study in the United States by the Alliance for Excellent Education says about 7,000 American students drop out of high school every school day. Under-performing high schools also produce 58 percent of all African-American dropouts. A special high school in Washington is trying to reduce those numbers by keeping young African Americans in school and on a career path.

Jakor Porter is like many other American teenagers.

He has a passion for skateboarding. But he's taken his love for the sport to new heights and into the classroom.

Jakor is putting the final touches on a movie about his life and his enthusiasm for skateboarding. It's a project he produced at the Richard Wright School for Journalism and Media Arts.

"I like to write. It's fun and it is a way for me to express my feelings. JournaIism and media arts, I wanted to do something different because at my old school they taught me how to write, but they didn't teach me how to really get into it as in expressing my feelings," Porter said.

Jakor is one of 130 mostly African American students who attend this unique public school. It's the only high school in Washington that primarily focuses on preparing students for careers in the media as reporters, producers, photographers and video editors.

"When I came here, I found something that I could do and it is like a trade for me to work with my hands, hands-on stuff [experience]," Porter said.

Marco Clark opened the school in a low income Washington neighborhood last year. His mission is to get students out of poor performing schools where they were falling behind and likely to drop out. "Why keep a kid in a school that is not functioning, a school that is not giving a kid what they desire and keep them there? We force them to be in a place and then we criticize them if they don’t do well,” Clark said.

Clark uses his own life experiences to teach students about overcoming obstacles. At 11 years old, a school counselor told Clark he was functionally illiterate. Now 30 years later, he's earned several advanced university degrees and is an educator himself. Clark says he's not giving up on these kids.

“You take whatever challenges they have and you turn it into a positive stone, and that positive stone says that you can do, and it let's figure out where you are. Let's create a dream for you and let’s help you continue to achieve your aspirations,” Clark said.

Education researchers say minority students are often pushed into courses that will not ever prepare them for college or work. That’s not the case here where the priority is preparing these students for higher education.

"You need to take approximately 18 hours each semester if you want to graduate [from college] on time,” said teacher Marco Brooks says these 9th graders need to know now what it takes to be successful at a university. "The problem that I have had over the years is that students would come to me not prepared, not ready for what they have been challenged to do. In order to obtain scholarships, I believe that you should already be introduced and prepared to be in the running.”

Jakor is back on his skateboard after a 12-hour school day, plotting more paths to a good education and a rewarding career.
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