Looking back on how far I have come, it is safe to say that Achievement First was a major reason for my success in, and eventually beyond, high school. Before ever attending a public charter school, I was a student at a local district school. During my time there, I was not the greatest student. It wasn’t because I wasn’t smart, it was because I lacked motivation and never cared for doing well in school. My teachers never pushed me to do more than pass an assignment and my peers displayed my same indifference towards school so there was no one in the classroom to push me.
Then came Achievement First Bridgeport Academy. My mother told me that I would be transferring to a new school she heard about from a friend. She thought it would be a better fit for me. At first, I thought, “What? Another school What’s the difference?” I was wrong. Achievement First distinguished itself from my old school within my first day of attending.
Every single day I was reminded about the goal to not only go to but to graduate from college. My teachers created different cheers for us whenever we met a goal we had set for us. It seems trivial, but that meant a lot to me. It was the first time I felt my teachers truly cared about my education and my future. I felt motivated to go to school. I bought into the idea that I could actually go to a great college. I picked up my grades every single year until I became a top student.
Achievement First Amistad High school was the same story. My teachers actively supported me through office hours, weekend study sessions, and more. Besides academics, my teachers taught me how to be an advocate for myself and for others who needed a voice. In high school, I was a member of the senior senate. While at first I was overwhelmed with the idea of representing my whole class, one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Pekrul, showed me how to communicate with different students and gather their concerns into different categories so that we can address them in a more controlled, effective way. I carried those skills into my college experience by joining various clubs.
I believe that charter schools like Achievement First are important for students in lower income communities. I notice that many students in my community suffer from the same lack of motivation that I once had. No one is telling them that they can go to college or succeed. Students should not go to school with the thought of just getting their work done. While that is important, teachers should also foster determination in their students and help them realize their potential to go to a college or do whatever they dream.
My high school does just that. Achievement First does not only prepare students to do well on exams; Achievement First prepares students for success in college and beyond. The teachers at Achievement First generally care and do everything in their power to give students the skills needed for everyday life. Even now, AF Amistad High School’s alumni network still support us with book scholarships, internships opportunities and monthly check-ins to make sure we are doing well.
Look at me now: I am a sophomore at Bates College. I’ve exercised the advocacy skills AF has given me through memberships in the Caribbean Student Union, Black Student Union and more. I help college freshman whenever I see them struggle both academically and socially. I still help students who go to AF Amistad High School through the college application process and more. As you can see, I am no longer the student that just goes to school because I have to but because I want to learn and grow in order to help others.
Marcel is a member of the Achievement First Amistad High Class of 2015. His post originally appeared on Medium.