A New Program Opening Doors for Underprivileged Students

In 2019, the National Education Equity lab created an initiative for underprivileged students to participate in a study, in which high school students in poverty were able to take Harvard-level classes. The study invited more than 300 students to participate. These selected students were from impoverished communities, and they were given the same curriculum, coursework, and grading scale as Harvard students. Many of them excelled in this program, despite all the odds. 

One student, Di’Zhon Chase, said, “[This] isn’t something that adults expect out of us. I don’t think it’s because they don’t believe in us; it’s just so much is stacked against us.” Chase and the other students gathered for this experiment are redefining the odds that are stacked against them and changing their narrative. They’re showing that, despite where you come from, you can go to an ivy league and excel, so why isn’t this the expectation? 

I’ll tell you why: limited opportunity. I mean, what are the odds that someone gets picked in a one-time study of  300 students to attend an elite university? It’s slim to none. Underprivileged students attending Harvard isn’t expected because there is little to no opportunity for it to happen for them, unlike the opportunity star athletes receive. Cornell University president says, “We can’t realize equity in higher education unless we expand opportunities, at the K-12 level,” and she’s right. Colleges can spout all they want about wanting and/or needing diversity on their campuses, but until there is opportunity for these things to happen, besides athletics, it’s all just talk. 

As a senior in high school, this hits home because I will be attending college soon. It’s a real rat race out there, as far as applying to colleges and scholarships, and I wish there were equal opportunities for all students, no matter their background, but I can only hope that things will improve in the future.

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