Sun Commentary — In Their Own Words: WPS students talk back-to-school

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(Editor’s note: First in an In Their Own Words series that seeks to share candid perspective from inside the walls of the city’s schools.)

Interviews conducted by Sun contributor Ashleigh LaRose

Cheyenne B., eighth-grader, East Middle School

I go to East Middle, I’m in the academy, the top part, the science, math and technology academy. I’m going into eighth grade. WS: And how are you feeling about going back (last Wednesday)? CB: Well I’m a little bit happy and excited, but I’m also nervous. I’m happy because I get to see my friends again and see what the school year has to bring this year. But I’m not excited because I don’t want to deal with all the tests, all the homework, and seeing all the people I don’t like again.

I liked it (last year) but some of the teachers, they just lash out on us for no reason. It’s a good school but just some of the teachers… WS: Do you see a difference between the kids in the academy and the regular part of the school? CB: Yeah, the kids in the regular school, like it seems like they try to prove they’re better than the kids in the academy even though we’re better because we’re in the academy. They’re much more obnoxious than we are. There are some kids that don’t care, like me. I just try my best. WS: Is there anything you saw going on in the school that you would like to see change this year? CB: Yes. Like, sometimes there’s some different teachers that teach things a different way, and if you don’t understand it sometimes they tell us to just figure it out. I wish they would come over and help us a little more. Some teachers are like that and some teachers aren’t, and then you’re just stuck there failing the class and you don’t know what to do.

I wish sometimes, I wear uniforms, and I wish sometimes on certain days each week, like Friday, we could take breaks from wearing uniforms. WS: Do you guys feel singled out because you have to wear uniforms and the rest of the kids don’t? CB: Yeah because whenever we go down there, the teachers will be like “you’re not supposed to be down here, you’re supposed to be upstairs.” WS: Do you get any time interacting with the other kids? Like at lunch or recess? CB: No, we don’t have recess, and for lunch the academy just eats together. I’ll see my friends in the hallways sometimes if I’m in the hallway going to the nurse’s office or something.

WS: You guys all split for high school next year right? So this is going to be a bittersweet year for you because you’re going to be separating from your friends. How do you feel about that? CB: Well I don’t really like it. I’m gonna make new friends but sometimes I just like to be alone because I don’t know if somebody’s gonna be my type of person or if they’ll hang out with me or not. I’m pretty sure I’ll make new friends.

Cheyenne answered our first set of questions prior to school starting. We checked back in after the first couple of days. “Nobody really gets bullied there, but there’s like this one kid that everybody always picks on. He’s, like, in my home room … and I was like “will you guys just leave him alone, please.” Then my teacher, she just didn’t say anything. But like there are certain teachers who will just say, “Oh, gosh, leave him alone.”

Yes, there’s a lot of fights. … People be jumping people after school. …WS: Do the teachers do anything about that?  CB: Teachers are always like, well, if it’s after school — if it’s near the school it’s their problem, if it’s not near the school, they don’t really care.

No, I don’t really think (students) feel safe. There’s certain kids there who threaten people.

Jordan K., sophomore, North High School

After agreeing to be interviewed — Tuesday, Aug. 25 — Jordan seemed to grow hesitant and only answered a few questions.

WS: How has your experience at North been?
JK: It was good. The staff and the teachers are nice. It’s a nice school too.

WS: Are you excited about going back?
JK: Yeah, tomorrow is going to be good I feel like.

WS: Do you have any classes you excited about?
JK: Yeah I got gym twice this year so I’m looking forward to that, that’s about it.

WS: And is there anything going on in the school that you would like to see change this year?
JK: Probably just the lunch, some of the lunches aren’t so good, but other than that, nah.

A.J. Pottle, Burncoat High graduate, class of 2009

I definitely really enjoyed my experience at Burncoat. I particularly like the fine arts aspects at Burncoat. I know that even if you want to take fine arts, you can, like, get into Burncoat in any aspect as long as you take those courses. Like, I took music all four years there and, like, the teachers that were there were unbelievable, I learned a lot. WS: Was it your choice to attend Burncoat? Was it the fine arts that drew you in? Or you lived in the neighborhood? AP: I live in the neighborhood, so it was my high school I was going to go to, but it would have been the high school I wanted to go to because of the fine arts.

There were definitely learning curves when I got to college but I think that can be attributed to just generally moving onto college. WS: And what college did you go to? AP: I went to Boston College. WS: So, yeah, you were able to get into a really good school. AP: Oh, definitely! Definitely. I think the public-school, general aspect of (Burncoat) must have helped, if anything, I feel like it made me more of a well-rounded person, and I think it made a difference when I came to apply.

WS: Have you noticed any changes from when you graduated as far as how kids are interacting there now? For instance, last year guns were found in lockers and outside the school. Does stuff like that surprise you? Is it new? AP: Well I think in any public school system it gets highlighted a little bit when there’s any sort of violence, but I wouldn’t attribute it to, by any means, to the school system itself. I think it’s just one of those unfortunate instances. I wouldn’t attribute it to any sort of teachers making issues like that. I think it was just one of the situations that was unfortunate. I wouldn’t say it’s an isolated incident but an incident that people notice specifically because it’s an inner-city public school. I would also say that a lot of steps have been made to negate that.

WS: Do you think your success came from a combination of good school support and home support? Do you feel like kids who don’t necessarily have good home support can still thrive at Burncoat? AP: I think kids who don’t have good home support can certainly thrive at Burncoat, if they personally want to achieve things like that. My success and ability to go to college and to go to a school like Boston College was definitely aided by my home life. I think I was very fortunate, but I think someone from a lower socioeconomic background could certainly still do the same things I did if it was something they wanted to do. I think Burncoat would give them the opportunity to, just as much as any other school.

This article was originally published in the Aug. 30, 2015 edition of the Sun.

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