Deciding to Graduate or Survive Shouldn’t Be A Challenge Black High School Students Face

Black high students are working full time during the pandemic and in school. One of our EdLanta student coalition members, Aisha Dukuly, is a hardworking high school senior in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She identifies with what many of her peers across the nation who are working during the pandemic to survive while preparing to graduate high school. 

In a conversation with Aisha, she spoke of her experience as a high school student advocating for civic engagement amongst her peers and neighbors, maintaining excellent grades, battling a pre-existing health condition, and working! 

It’s a lot of pressure and stress on Black students who work while being in school and preparing for post graduation opportunities especially during the pandemic. 

Aisha lends her voice to speak on some of the issues Black students who are in their junior and high school years are experiencing right now in this sudden shift of learning in the pandemic.  She shared three areas of support that Black and brown students who are working while in high school need. 

Black and Brown High School Students Need From Public Schools 

  1. Support with Work Life Balance
  2. Flexibility in scheduling and class offerings 
  3. Preparation for Post Graduation

Too often, we make the assumption that because high school students are older, they know how to survive. Black and brown high school students need support with balancing school and work. 

Aisha only works three days a week out of a five day school week. Like many of her peers, she’s working to help pay the bills. She states, “It was very challenging at the beginning, but I quickly learned to balance the two.” However, all students don’t have this support to find balance. 

Some students work up to 40 hrs a week which means they’re losing out on sleep. Therefore, students would appreciate it if teachers didn’t assign too many assignments, busy work, or big projects, especially when these tasks aren’t connected to career pathways. 

Thankfully, Aisha has a busy, yet flexible schedule. At her high school, a normal full schedule is 8 classes, 4 every day. This has made it easier for her to work and help support her family. However, this is not the case for all students. 

Many traditional public schools are struggling with flexibility for students and parents who are in various models from hybrid, virtual or even face to face.The change in support has impacted Black and brown students differently. 

Aisha doesn’t think that working and being in school has impacted her preparation for secondary education negatively because she is a LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) Scholar. She has been receiving college prep since late May and thinks this has made her a stronger applicant for colleges but fears for her classmates who are not receiving the support they need. 

Aisha and the EdLanta Student Coalition will be reviewing attendance, behavior and discipline policies in their school districts to begin making recommendations for change. These policies have historically been biased against Black and brown students and negatively impacted those who are working to survive in the pandemic while striving to graduate. 

EdLanta’s Student Coalition has been on the ground continuing grassroots efforts to lift up the voices of Black students in civic engagement. If you are a student in Metro Atlanta who wants to participate, please email [email protected]


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