By the students, for the students. We want to be relatable, and we want to accurately represent the students of HISD. Anyone can submit – see the sidebar to learn how. Powered by the HISD Student Congress.
Raquel Douglas, Carnegie Vanguard, 2015
Here, I found no solitude, only the solace of indispensable interactions. Here, though the building’s bricks were decaying and the air conditioning was faulty at best, I blossomed. Here, amid an impoverished neighborhood with abnormally high crime rates, I received one of the best educations in the country.
Normally, people see an excess of contradictions negatively, but as I stepped onto Carnegie Vanguard High School’s deteriorating grounds for the first time in 2011, I welcomed them with open arms. There was just something about the way the one large tree persevered in the heart of the open courtyard, the way the doors squeaked when opened, or the way I could look out of classroom windows and see the bayou and horse rehabilitation center, that made this campus home for someone like me.
My entire life, I had always fit into one box of stereotypes with no room to express myself. I’m a minority who can’t survive without a substantial amount of government benefits. I’m the child of a single mom who works for minimum wage. We were rarely able to keep an apartment for a year (moving a grand total of 12 times since the 6th grade), and for almost two years we were homeless. At times, we did not have electricity, let alone internet, which made finishing homework difficult once I enrolled in the country’s 11th most challenging public high school (Washington Post). Growing up, I was always told I’m not supposed to love learning or go to college or experience vertical mobility; my life was supposed to finish in the same position it started.
However, once I arrived at Carnegie, everything changed. Initially, I did not believe I belonged, as if I was the complete antithesis to the mostly higher income, mostly white students who were always ahead of me. I soon realized I was surrounded by individuals who saw me as a person capable of achieving anything I wished, not as a stereotype shackled by society’s “expectations.” Unlike my old schools, everyone recognized one another as unique in their own right.
My love for education rose exponentially as I learned about satire and prose, currently my favorite tools of expression. Simply put, my life has become a complete contradiction of its predecessors, releasing me from the cycle that has entrapped my family for generations. It was a rather sudden change, but it is the most beautiful thing to ever happen to me.
The school itself, through never-ending generosity, helps me focus on my education through the support I receive. Each holiday, the Carnegie Parent-Teacher-Organization gives my family a food basket, ensuring we can eat. Without my asking, a faculty member paid the $25 for me to be able to get a PowerUp laptop. One year I was given a brand new Windows 8 tablet to help me do my homework. My life was never promising until I became surrounded by such amazing people four years ago. It is not often someone like me has the chance to break their mold. No one in my family nor any of my childhood friends thus far have succeeded.
When most people saw Carnegie’s old campus, they described it as dirty or run-down. However, when I first got off the Metrobus and walked to the two-story building with the open field and broken fences, I began a four-year journey that made Carnegie somewhere I can finally call home. It became somewhere I would not have to leave in a year, a safe haven that would accept me no matter where in the city I lived. I saw a place that would ultimately change the path of my life by understanding and embracing me despite my background, whose impact will last longer than conceivable.