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Michigan Nightlight Voices: Cass Tech sophomore experiences disparities in school systems firsthand

Brooke Solomon

Between 7th and 8th grade, I made a huge transition in schools. To be clear, I left my suburban school district and entered into my urban school district as an 8th grader. The impact on my social status as a teenager was dreadful. The difference between the West Bloomfield school and the Detroit school was immense because.

I told myself that since I lived in Detroit it wouldn't be that hard to go to school there too. My first DPS school, Burton International Academy, was located on the corner of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Drive. The people at Burton were amazing, but the environment left me unsettled. 

The school lacked the resources I thought every school needed. I was accustomed to smart boards, chrome books, and textbooks for each student. In Detroit, however, teachers were striking because of pay cuts. And amidst all the chaos, students were still hopeful and yearned for a better education just like the kids in West Bloomfield. 

The importance of a good education has been instilled in me since birth. I believe education is one of the most important things in a person's life and everyone should have equal access. To me, there was no difference between students from Detroit and the suburbs, but I began to notice the vast inequities between DPS and WBSD—the blatant disparities between the school districts lit a fire in me. 

In high school, I was introduced to a club called buildOn, a community service organization that allows students to participate in activities like feeding the homeless, planting at community gardens, and volunteering at citywide events. This program changed my life forever because I was able to help my own community while having fun and getting community service hours. 

A year ago through buildOn, I had the opportunity to travel to a developing country and help build a school. This experience, called Trek, had a big effect on me. 12 DPS students and I ventured to a remote village in Nicaragua called El Pajaro. We lived with a host family for two weeks while engaging in cultural activities and physically building the school. During these weeks, I learned so much about myself and how education is viewed in different parts of the world. 

On Trek, one of our cultural activities was teaching the kids at their old school. This school building consisted of four wooden walls, a tin roof, and a dirt floor. The whole building was smaller than one of my classrooms. It was extremely hot and dozens of kids were packed together with very little school supplies. 

Even under these circumstances, the kids were still so eager to learn and they absorbed everything we taught them. This inspired me to take my education seriously; not only because I'm privileged enough to have one but, also because one day I can use it to make education available to all. 

Trek was my first step towards the fight for access to education worldwide. I hope to continue making progress in Detroit where students don’t always have the educational resources they need to succeed. In the future, I hope to be accepted into National Honor Society so I can join the after-school tutoring with freshmen. I would also like to work on developing a mentoring/tutoring program between Cass Tech High School and local middle schools to ensure that all students are ready for the big leap into high school. 

I believe that an easily accessible, free, and quality education should be available to everyone: rich, poor, black, white or anything in between. When I grow up, I dream of becoming a doctor in the global health field, but I will never stop fighting for equal access to education. Not just here, but everywhere.

Brooke Solomon is a bright, young community organizer and advocate who is a sophomore at Cass Tech High School. She advocates for her peers and about pertinent issues that surround her community within Detroit. 

Solomon has been participating with the buildOn program for almost two years, giving back to her community through service, and as the education officer at weekly meetings for her school's buildOn program. She has completed 146 hours of community service with buildOn. 

This article is part of Michigan Nightlight, a series of stories about the programs and people that positively impact the lives of Michigan kids. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read more in the series here.
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