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Dietrich College News

January 2012

2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

Prose: High School

Second Place

Chelsea Humphries
11th grade, Winchester Thurston

Imagine waking up at 6:00 in the morning in order to get ready for your long day at school. Once taking 45 minutes to pick out your outfit, worrying that somebody will judge you or better yet beat you up because of what you have on, getting to your bus stop and waiting for the bus to come, constantly checking the time on your phone because the bus is running late. Then once the bus gets there 15 minutes late, you have to find a seat with only one other person because the rules were two to a seat. Arriving at your school you only see shell casings on the ground and a playground set rusting and falling apart piece by piece. Then you walk to your locker that you have to share with another person because the school doesnít have enough money to have a locker for every student. Getting to class you find there are at least 29 other people sitting in their seats talking loudly over the teacher and throwing things back and forth while the teacher tries to gain control over the whole class.

These are only some of the problems that kids in the Pittsburgh Public School system have to face due to the social injustices in the school systems. These are the problems that contribute to the cycle of the decline of our school systems. The system starts when these students are placed into classrooms with a minimum of 25 students with only one teacher and often no aide. This one teacher only has these kids for 50 minutes a day and gives them assignments expecting them to do the work but not really caring if they actually do it or not. This causes students to not do their work and not learn the necessary material, which is something that the teacher canít realize because they canít give the students individual attention due to the time, and also they probably have 100 other students they have to pay attention to. At times the teachers also donít care about these kids because they often look at their job as a high paying babysitting job. Due to lack of personal attention these students receive, they perform poorly on the standardized test which then causes the schools to lose their federal funding. This then leads to the schools not being able to buy the necessary class materials for the students, as well as maintain the school building, which then causes the city to close the school. Once the school is closed, students from the newly closed school and another open school are merged together. This often doesnít work because the students donít have a choice to go to a school where they arenít comfortable, and now they really arenít able to focus because they have to worry about their safety around the new students. More times than not there are more fights due to the fact that these kids from different conflicting areas are put into one place with limited security. So once again we are at the beginning of the cycle, with too many students in a small, barely maintained building with limited resources and teachers.

Imagine having to go through this during your childhood, being judged on your academic history or lack thereof because of issues that you or your parents donít have control over. Due to the fact that the issue at hand is one that is often brushed under the rug and not talked about but now is the time to talk about it. A lot of kids fall victim to this system and yet they are being judged on what the city is doing to them. Not only are they failing them in the school system, they are failing their parents by not further educating them. These parents 9 times out of 10 went through this system and they also fell victim to the system which means that they werenít able to get a career that would allow them a nice income each year causing them to stay stuck in the same area and the kids are swept back into it. Itís not that the cities are discriminating against people of different races. Itís that they are discriminating against the people who are in low-income areas in which it just happens that the majority is minority.

I had the personal experience that some of these students have had. I used to go to a school which was located in a low income area because my parents didnít like my home school. At the school I wasnít really challenged to do more, I made straight Aís and I wanted to do more and get involved in higher classes but due to location of the school I couldnít. They didnít have the resources or offer the classes that would provide me what I wanted. The best that they could do was send me along with a couple of others to the gifted program and that wasnít much help because it was something that was only once a week. There were times when we would get textbooks that were used from years before with missing pages, and drawings all over the pages because they couldnít afford to buy new ones or ones that were in better condition.

I feel as if Dr. King would be strongly against this because people are being discriminated against, something that they donít know how to break or something that they arenít being educated about, and he would like to fix it. I feel as if a way we can fix these problems or at least attempt to fix them is by informing the parents because the longer that they stay quiet about it the longer it will continue and the cycle wonít ever end unless we speak up.

View the complete list of the 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Award winners.

Stay connected with CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Twitter and Facebook.

Other sources of Carnegie Mellon news include the university news service website and the Carnegie Mellon Today magazine.

Contact Shilo Rea, Director of Public Relations at or (412) 268-6094.


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