Article on OPRF grads became a teaching tool

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I wanted to thank you for the article "The minority of a minority ?#34; Two black valedictorians at OPRF this year" by Diana Oleszczuk that appeared in the Aug. 31 issue and for the Our Views editorial: "The noble cause of student discipline."

Louisa Shannon and Sean Mitchell are two shining role models for all students but especially for black students. They have successfully navigated the honors/AP program at OPRF High School and excelled to the highest heights. Their stories and success strategies are beneficial to all students.

Holding up and reading from the article, I stood before a new group of black seventh grade algebra students and their parents in the Math Academy* at Brooks Middle School. I read to students, "You can be a good student and still be Afro-centric, have friends from other cultures ... Harvard University is the destination for Sean Mitchell, a star water polo player and football quarterback."

This article is living proof that a lot of the "hype" that black students hear about academic excellence just doesn't add up. I read to parents the sage advice that Louisa Shannon shared about the kinds of supports her parents provided for her. Louisa's parents "help me pick my classes, go to see my teachers ..., ask about my school work and what I'm studying, they read my papers."

Her words: "Minority parents should read the course selection and realize that they don't always have to accept class placements. ... Some people get tracked early and people don't expect them to do more."

And this point was reinforced in the Our Views editorial that stated, "African-American parents are not as savvy when it comes to working the placement system." Sounds like parent marching orders to me and this information has been tried and found true.

So our 90-minute discussion began with this article and the editorial as teaching tools, and this was just our first lesson using both. We have yet to discuss work ethic and the importance of service to the community or how one becomes savvy about placement. These pieces are just chock full of lessons for students and parents. So we have new resources that we will use with every group of our students.

Thanks to the author, Diana Oleszczuk and to the editor. It isn't every day that an article and an editorial become teaching tools for students and parents.

*The Math Academy is a parent volunteer effort whose aim is to increase the number of black students from Brooks Middle School in honors math at OPRF.

Michelle Harton
Math Academy coordinator, Dist. 97 school board member

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