NYC Schools · school diversity · student voices

Why We Created a Website for Students of Color, and Why We Shouldn’t Have Had To

This is a guest post by: 

Aisha Baiocchi: Uses she/her pronouns and is half Brazilian and half Indian. She is a rising senior at the High School of American Studies in the Bronx. She is the founder and executive editor of The Outsiders Guide website. She is also an artist and an advocate for public education reform.

AnnaBelle Medina: Uses she/her pronouns and is a quarter Ecuadorian, a quarter Puerto Rican and half Cuban. She is from the Bronx and is a rising senior at the High School of American Studies in the Bronx. She is an executive editor of The Outsiders Guide website, as well as an active member of her community who is involved in education reform and promoting equity for all.

When we took the PSAT last fall, the entire 11th grade class took it in one big classroom. Our principal routinely walked us through the scantron we had to fill out before we got into the actual test: he instructed everyone to write out the school code, bubble in our grade, and to skip a few sections because there wasn’t enough time to fill them all out. We didn’t think much of it, so we simply skipped those sections and started the test when he announced the infamous words: “You may begin the exam.”

A few days later, when talking to our friends at different schools about the exam, one mentioned that their school made them fill out the section that asked about their race and ethnicity. That section happened to be one that our principal had instructed that we skip over, but more importantly, it happened to be one that could qualify us for specific race-based scholarships and programs if we scored high enough. While most of our friends at our predominantly white school brushed it off, knowing that bubbling in the “caucasian” bubble would do little for their academic futures, we realized that we might have just been overlooked in a massive way.

We went straight to our principal when we found out the significance of skipping over the section. Our panic must have been evident, as he seemed quite disheveled when we walked into his office. We explained what we thought had happened, and after listening, he assured us that all of our individual information would be recorded with our tests. We walked out only feeling a little better than we had before, because we really had no way of knowing if what he said was true. Was it possible that we were stripped away of an opportunity that was made for us? 

That experience is common. When we began to work on our website, The Outsiders Guide, and started talking to other students of color at similarly segregated schools, almost everyone had a story that parallels ours. We discovered that almost every student of color had little trust in their administration to make decisions that would benefit them. Whether it was a guidance counselor who assumed that they must know about all the minority scholarships without actually being informed, or a teacher who had a habit of glossing over their people’s history in a “global” history course, almost every student of color has felt that their predominantly white school isn’t meant to support them. 

This is why we created our website. We compiled all the information we wish we were told in high school, along with a lot of honest advice we had to figure out by ourselves. We share stories and blog posts that amplify the voices of students of color, while offering tons of resources and opportunities around New York City. As students of color, we are trying to fix the obvious gap in our New York City school system, but this shouldn’t be the case. 

The fact of the matter is, the information we share isn’t a secret, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. All students deserve to be educated by their schools on the college process and an explanation of what AP courses mean, because this is essential information. Unfortunately, this is far from reality, especially in New York City, where schools are the most segregated in the country. 

In a perfect society, we would never have to create a website that helps foster equality in education. But until then, The Outsiders Guide is here to help. 

What do you think?

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