Success in a New Land

I began my formal education in Ghana, where my only hope for success was through higher education. Growing up there, I dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and later a pharmacist. However, this dream began to fade as I came to realize that my family did not have the money for me to pursue my educational goals.

Yet, I never gave up on my dreams. In 2001, my family came to the United States. The transition to the new environment was a difficult one for me. For example, it took me two years to make new friends. Nonetheless, with the help of my parents, teachers and friends, I never gave up. I soon realized that hard work pays off. John H. Johnson, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, said, "If you can somehow think and dream of success in small steps, every time you make a step, every time you accomplish a small goal, it gives you confidence to go on from there."

Two of the most important benefits of attending Cardozo were being accepted into a college of my choice and receiving scholarships. Through my efforts and the help of others, I was able to obtain the financial help to pursue my goal of becoming a pharmacist. I have never let failure or difficulties stop me from doing anything.

Gameli Agbleze

Cardozo High School

Wilson's Potential

Just like our city, Wilson contains students from many religions, nationalities, races and cultures. But let's be honest. Just like this city, Wilson is not always a melting pot. Most of us segregate ourselves along racial and socioeconomic lines. Despite the diversity that is at our fingertips, there are often invisible barriers between many of us. We find it easier to hang out with students who are most like us, from neighborhoods we grew up in and cultures and races we are a part of. But the great thing about Wilson is that there are moments when we do break down these social barriers.

I remember, just a few months ago, a discussion I took part in for the new documentary "With All Deliberate Speed," commemorating the Brown v. Board of Education decision that integrated the nation's public schools. A multiracial group of Wilson students talked for two hours after school about race, activism and how to build on the achievements of the past. As Wilson students, we were actually able to discuss many uncomfortable issues in a way that I don't hear often around this city. By the end of those two hours, we had achieved a level of trust that allowed many of us to make very self-revealing statements.

It is moments like these that make the Wilson experience so valuable -- moments when those invisible barriers crumble away and when we question whether, in fact, they ever existed at all. I've come to realize that if any school has the potential to increase moments like these, it is Wilson High School.

Rachel Butler

Wilson High School

Coping With Loss

In my first year at Duke, a visual arts student told me the work would get harder every year. But, at that time, I couldn't look past the enormous amounts of homework I already received every day. In my acceptance to this art school, I knew that I would have to make sacrifices, but little did I know of the stress I would face in my senior year.

My senior year became my hardest . . . as my personal life started to take a toll on my schoolwork. This year, my grandmother passed, which made focusing on school harder than usual. But, luckily, I had the additional support and encouragement of many teachers and friends that helped me to cope with my loss. I know that in my years to come as an artist and scholar, I will hold experiences at Duke Ellington as a necessary archetype for the destination that I seek. And, as further stated in the . . . "Art & Fear" [Operating] Manual for Not Quitting, [read to us by our art teacher] if all goes well, the Museum of Modern Art -- or whatever that represents for each of us -- eventually will arrive.

Linda Jeanay Clark

Duke Ellington

School of the Arts

We Chose Excellence

I hope that the public school system will improve tremendously because we shouldn't need vouchers to attend a private school in order to receive the best education: It should already be guaranteed. And despite the lack of technology that we had within our school, despite the lack of funds, and the condition of our building and classrooms, the seniors at H.D. Woodson still chose excellence. . . .

Some people compare life to many different things. I am going to compare the Class of 2004 to the story of the three little pigs. . . . Here's a brief synopsis.

There once were three little pigs who set out on their own adventure. Along came a big, bad wolf who was determined to overpower the pigs. He succeeded in overpowering two out of the three pigs. In our case, the wolf represents society, and most of it seems to involve violence, drugs, gangs and ignorance. The first little pig represents our classmates who dropped out of school. The second pig represents our classmates who were in school with us and for some strange reason are not graduating today. And the third pig represents all of us who are receiving our diploma today and are ready to explore the world beyond high school.

In comparison to our senior class, the wolf intimidated and outsmarted the first little pig and was able to blow the pig's house down -- just as society and all of the evil within it influenced some of our classmates to drop out of school and not receive an education.

The wolf once again outsmarted the second little pig and was able to blow that pig's house down and eat him, just as ignorance allowed some of our classmates to play around for four years and not graduate. . . .

The third little pig outsmarted the wolf, just as the class of 2004 outsmarted society. No matter how hard the wolf tried, he still couldn't eat the third little pig, and no matter how hard society tried to knock us down, it was unable to overpower our hunger for success. Society was unable to keep us from graduating because the senior class before you chose excellence.

Tasha Key

H.D. Woodson High School

A Warm, New Family

I moved to Washington from South Carolina in the year 2000 and I didn't like the idea of leaving behind my extended family, friends and familiar places. I remember how afraid I felt about making a drastic change, and I wondered about fitting in and identifying with my peers.

The lifestyles, fashions and slang were very different from my own styles, and I didn't know how to function in an urban setting, where everything was in constant motion. In effect, I felt isolated and lonely. I just wanted to go back to my home town so badly that I began to rebel against my parents' rules and guidance, which turned out to be a big mistake. However, as my freshman year started, I began to develop friendships, as well as relationships, with several of the teachers and students at my new school.

Roosevelt Senior High School, the jewel on the hill, is where I met my best friend . . . and also where I was first introduced to the idea of college and where I have experienced some of my best times. Everyone treated me as if I were a part of his or her family, and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in this world. Through the tears and laughter, I have overcome the difficult times in my life, and the Roosevelt family has played a significant role in my development. What stood out the most is the amount of love and support I received in those times of need.

Latoyya Temekia Valteau

Theodore RooseveltHigh