Meghan Harrington Feature/Entertainment Editor
From Oct. 15 to 18, Pioneer High School junior Jordan Dubreuil attended the 2014 Minority Student Achievement Network Student Conference to discuss the achievement gap situation that exists within Pioneer and other high schools in the nation.
The four-day conference was hosted by Farmington Public Schools in Farmington, Mich., and was the 15th annual Minority Student Achievement Network Student Conference. The theme of the conference was “Broadening Horizons: Engaging All Voices Through Dialogue,” and its goal was to “focus on using student voice as a vehicle for change.”
Dubreuil was one of two representatives sent from Pioneer, and was one of 250 high school students who came from districts around the United States to discuss race and develop a plan of action toward closing the achievement gap that persists between high and low academic achievers. “We worked in groups and each group had two hours to prepare and make an action plan that would help improve and eliminate the achievement gap,” Dubreuil said.
The overall objective of The Minority Student Achievement Network Student Conference is to bring awareness to the achievement gap and come up with ways to solve it. “Obviously there’s an achievement gap between every school so that’s our problem,” Dubreuil said. “That’s the reason for having this conference — to try and eliminate it, and to try and find ways to get around it.”
The achievement gap, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is the disparity in academic performance between different groups of students. It is often based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status of students and has been a problem for decades. Pioneer counselor Colleen Creal has witnessed the achievement gap since she started working here. “We have a wide disparity — we have a lot of kids at the very top end of the scale, and we have 3.5 [GPA] and above, and then we have a lot of kids at the 2.5 or 1.0 or below,” she said. “Usually the 2.5 or below are the minority students or students who are [in a] low socioeconomic [group].”
Senior Vivian Nweze, who attended The Minority Student Achievement Network Student Conference last year, believes she sees the achievement gap on a daily basis. “I’m usually only one of two black students in my AP classes, and many of my black friends from elementary and middle school are either going to alternative high schools or aren’t doing well in school,” said Nweze.
The Minority Student Achievement Network Student Conference is important because the program works on these issues and strives to come up with viable solutions. “I think it helped the gap because we talked about our experiences with it and why it may exist and solutions for it,” said Nweze.
Creal stated that although there has been a large effort done by staff to raise awareness over the achievement gap, data still shows that minorities and lower income students have a harder time in school. “We’ve had a lot of staff-driven initiatives [and] a lot of district-driven initiatives,” she said. “We do a lot of peer mentoring, NHS, and programs after school. The kids who aren’t achieving need to take advantage of it.”
Despite the difficulty in solving the 30-year-old achievement situation, Creal sees improvement and hope for the future. “I think anything student driven is great,” said Creal. “I think we’re making progress. We are sending more kids to school [and creating more] first generation college kids.”