11 Jun

My name is Jalen Johnson. I’m a junior at Summit Sierra

This originally appeared on the Washington Charter Schools Association Blog

Let’s flash back to 8th grade. I was a quiet and anxious kid, feeling defined and constrained by my diagnoses of Autism and ADHD. I was a B/B- student, and not hopeful about my prospects for college – and I know that a lot of kids who look like me, kids who have the challenges I have, too often don’t make it.

As a Black student in the public education system, historically and systemically, the odds are not in my favor. Then I found Summit Sierra – and high school has been exponentially better than I imagined it could ever be for me. Today, I have a 3.9 GPA, and I am thriving in my school community.

My courses are challenging, but what keeps me going is the nonstop support I receive from teachers like my mentor Mr.Sobiek, who on the very first week of school made a trip to each of his mentees homes, just to meet us, and learn how to best support us.

My teachers here are so committed, selfless, and passionate about my success. When I ask my Math teacher Ms. Temes a question on polynomial division I am dumbfounded at how any one person can be so enthusiastic about math! And my English teacher – Ms. Visperas – every morning and every afternoon, she dedicates time to help me prep for my AP exam.

Today, college is well within my reach. To say that Sierra has transformed me is no exaggeration. This time next year, I’ll know where I am going to college! My top choice is UC Berkeley. I think I’d like to study urban planning. College will be challenging but I’m not scared – Sierra has taught me to have grit and persevere.

I see myself and other students of color thriving at Summit. This is how every school should be – our success should be the norm, not the exception. I don’t know how things would have played out for me had I not found Sierra, but what I do know is that it has forever changed me, and I know that I’m worth it.

Because of Sierra, the unsure kid I once was has been replaced with a confident and comfortable young man. WE ALL deserve an equal opportunity to a great public education. And for me and so many kids like me, charter public schools provide exactly that – an opportunity to succeed.

The testimony above was originally shared by Jalen on May 17th, 2018, at a press conference in Olympia.

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