Opinion: Ensuring every child can rise on their talent

Antonio Ortega


As a young Mexican boy from southwest Chicago, I attended an underfunded, predominantly Latino and Hispanic public high school. I experienced firsthand the disparities between educational institutions.

My high school, Benito Juarez Community Academy, is 98% students of color (more than 94% Hispanic) and ranks in the bottom third of the 664 school districts in Illinois. But just a six-minute drive away is Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, ranked 4th in Illinois, where the racial makeup is much more equal: 30% Caucasian, 25% African American, 25% percent Latino, and around 17% Asian. Jones College Prep, ranked 3rd, is a 10-minute drive from my high school. Again, a third of the students are white. The stark differences in physical conditions and the quality of education between these schools are astronomical.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Even though there is some racial diversity at Jones and Young, the same can not be said about socioeconomic status and post-grade enrollment. For instance, Jones and Young have relatively lower percentages of low-income students, at 38% and 36% respectively, compared to Juarez, where almost 90% of the students come from low-income families.

So what happens to these kids once they graduate high school? The difference in college enrollment rates between these schools only underscores the impact of socioeconomic status on educational advancement. The fact that 91% of graduates from Young and 89% from Jones enroll in college within 16 months, compared to only 52% from Juarez, reflects a disparity in post-secondary opportunities and support.

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Publisher’s Note: CTLatinoNews partners with the CT Mirror in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.