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Opportunity Gaps, Not Achievement Gaps

Our junior editor asks: how many students are out there, full of talent and ambition, but with no access to the opportunities they deserve?
Photo: CDC/Pexels.

In a previous article, I mentioned the QuestBridge scholarship, an invaluable opportunity introduced to me by my counselor. 

Being a QuestBridge Scholar was undoubtedly an amazing honor that allowed me to realize my aspirations could come true; the nation's most prestigious universities were feasible options for me. I consider myself lucky, and that is despite attending a small, relatively under-resourced public high school.

With the pandemic hitting educational institutions across the nation, some areas are bound to be hit harder than others. Some students are finding themselves in a far more difficult situation than they imagined. "I just don't feel motivated anymore," said a current high school junior from New York who did not want to be identified. 

I had an hour-long conversation with this student, who I will call Jordan. As Jordan prepares for junior year's rite of passage: intense academics, SAT, APs and starting the college process, Jordan does not feel like there is enough support or information out there. 

"I feel terribly lost. I've started to question the purpose of college," Jordan continued. A few days prior, I tutored Jordan in math before introducing her to Khan Academy, a free educational platform to help her prepare for the SATs two months away. By the conclusion of our meeting, I also informed her briefly on the components of the college application. 

I am grateful to have had the internet as a valuable platform for searching up resources, opportunities and information. Through eager internet searches, I found free resources like Road to University and College Essay Guy, as well as other opportunities like BK Reader. No doubt, I have benefited tremendously from the vast opportunities available right on the pages of Google. 

But that was not enough. Without adequate support from the school, it would have been immensely difficult to seek out the right opportunities. Through my club supervisor, I learned about a summer internship opportunity that related to my interest in writing, the deadline was two days away. The application required two essays and an interview. Luckily, I was able to reuse a previous essay and write out another one. I was narrowly accepted. 

The opportunities I received weren't always correlated with my talent or ability. Sometimes, it was just knowing. "I would love to try new things, but I don't know where to start looking," said Jordan. For many students, even if they wanted to, opportunities are missed because they are never introduced to them. 

Especially in under-resourced school communities, these issues are exacerbated with a smaller staff to student ratio. Individual students receive less attention and support and consequently feel less connected with the larger school community.

By the conclusion of our conversation, I ended the call knowing that I had helped a student along a stressful process. But how many others are out there, full of talent and ambition, but with no access to the opportunities they deserve?


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