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My mother enrolled me at the Young Leaders Academy because I was a student at the YMCA where she worked. Young Leaders Academy was a school connected to the YMCA, so she could go to work and take me to school within a close distance. I enjoyed Young Leaders Academy because it was full of familiar faces from the YMCA daycare. It was a very home-loving environment, and the teachers academically challenged me.

Young Leader Academy has changed my life because I was surrounded by students and staff of color who looked like me. When my peers succeeded, it made me eager to succeed as well because I saw positive role models who were the same color as me. When Young Leaders Academy was shut down, everything changed. All I can remember is showing up to a new school one day full of predominantly white students.

It was a culture shock that I soon had to grow accustomed to. I was no longer smart amongst people who looked like me, but now I was just the “smart black girl.” It took me a while to express my identity in a school of people I felt I couldn’t relate to through my race, but I decided to make the best of my situation and expand myself further. Today, I am confident that I am not just a “smart black girl” but that I am smart and a black girl.

All families should have the right to put their children in any school they choose because education is valuable. A lot of places don’t have the resources to put every child through 13 years of education and then college. Meanwhile, here in America, students are being pushed away from certain schools due to their address for not living in a certain zip code, and they don’t have enough money to pay for the school’s tuition. This is unfair because, as children, we are only responsible for ourselves and not what area we live in or how much money our families have.


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