Don’t call it an excuse, call it an experience.

By: De’asia Ellis and Kayla Thames

Kayla Thames and De’asia Ellis are both products of the Baltimore City School system. They have worked for it, learned from it, and helped to make it great. Just like any other school in the world that we live in, Baltimore City has students with diverse backgrounds and inspiring stories.

The difference is how the Baltimore City school system is looked at. It does not it generate the test scores that it should and the amount of students who should be graduating aren’t. These students all have stories and reasons.

Some may call them excuses, but for us, the students of the school system, we have been there. We have  experienced, heard, and felt the stories of our peers. Some may blame Baltimore City’s downfalls on the school system, some may blame it on the youth’s home life, and some may blame it on Baltimore City.

But those who are still guessing are the ones who have not asked the source that key question: How have you gotten to where you are?

For those of you still wondering, here is a taste of where students have been and how they have gotten to the place they are today.

These are their stories; this is their life.

Name: Linh Danh 

Born in Soc Trang, Vietnam, raised in Baltimore, MD

High School: Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

College: Morgan State University

Moving from Vietnam to United States was a huge transition for Linh, especially moving to the “hood” part of West Baltimore at the tender age of nine.

She struggled learning the language and culture.  The biggest challenge for her was fitting in; “I was never surrounded by ‘my people’ I was always the odd one out basically half of my life,” she said. This is a challenge for any young people.

Academically, she feels as if the Baltimore City school system has failed her. She feels this way because she did not learn the skills that she would need to survive in everyday life. After graduating high school, Linh continued her academic journey into college because she wanted to make her parents, who traveled across the world to give her these educational opportunities, proud.

Name: Bryant Henly

Born and raised in Baltimore, MD

High School: Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

College: University of Baltimore

Coming from a tight-knit family, the death of his older brother took a toll on Bryant both academically and personally. He lacked any motivation in regards to school. As a result, he did mediocre work throughout high school. He feels as if the Baltimore School system has failed him. “It demoralized me and made me hate the concept of school, because of how archaic the structure is,” he said.

 He is currently attending the University of Baltimore with a brand new perspective on school.  He wanted to grow as a person, and heard that college was a fantastic way to expose himself to new opportunities. So, he made sure that he went to college.

Amanda Jones

Born and raised in Baltimore City

Cosmetology school

Amanda is a product of the Baltimore City school system. She was raised by her single mom along with her three brothers and one sister. She is the oldest of her siblings and takes great pride in that. She grew up seeing things done to her mom that no child should ever see. But, she believes that has made her stronger and wiser.

She talked about how she had to teach herself a lot of the time, because her mom worked so much, and the few moments she had for a break were spent resting. Amanda said, “I never mind helping my family. But, I feel as though I could have strived more in school if I had the opportunity to focus on me more. I would have joined after-school events and went to parties. I would have made friends so the kids wouldn’t tease me as much. That way someone knew why I came to school with the same shoes on every day, why I didn’t always have my hair done in the latest style, and why I sat in the back of the class and missed a lot of school.”

She says she does not know if the Baltimore City school system failed her but, she feels as though Baltimore City failed her family.

Bryan Lukes

Attended Dr. King for middle school, home schooled for high school.

Works at McDonald’s in Baltimore City and attends community college at BCCC.

Bryan has been home-schooled since the age of 14 because of his diabetes. He says he had a normal home life but not a normal life.

“Between doctor appointments and kids in school (when I went to school) always asking me why I didn’t come to school or why I was always so sick it made me feel like an outsider. It made me feel like I would never be like the other kids. So, I asked my parents to pull me out and allow me to be home schooled.” He did not want the questions or the gossip about why he received special treatment from his teachers.

“Even though I had some friends, I was never allowed to go to sleepovers or events they may have had at their house because my diabetes was unpredictable.” He was an only child raised by his mom and dad, so they kept him close. He said that he doesn’t really have anything to say about the Baltimore City school system. But, he wishes he could have stayed  if he had not been sick.

He wishes he could have had the experiences that the other students had, regardless of what they were. He just wanted something, something to look back on. Something that consisted of more than doctor appointments and his parents breathing down his back all the time. But, he is now attending community college and is excited to embark on a new journey where he is determined not to allow his sickness to hold him back anymore.

These are their stories. But, there are so many more. Everything happens for a reason. But, some things make you stronger and some things break you as well. These are the stories of some strong individuals who chose to overcome the obstacles that tried to stop them from moving forward. These are the individuals who did not allow statistics to get in the way of their future. But these are the success, so, do you think you can even begin to handle the stories of the ones who were not as successful.

(Photo: Baltimore City Schools District Headquarters)

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