For The Students Who Aren’t Supposed to Graduate

By Guest Columnist Jun 10, 2008

by Aries Hines As I stand honored by the opportunity to graduate and deliver the (graduate studies) Commencement speech for my class, I am shrouded by thoughts of not graduating. I think about the thousands of students each year who are left at the edges of almost getting here and when I look up at this audience I can almost see those invisible bodies. Their numbers pile up in my body, and in our communities like debt. I think about state competency exams and SAT/ACT score requirements that nearly kept me from getting here. I think about my own high school curriculum that had nothing to do with the content of the state mandated exams. About how many members of our own state school boards, school faculty, and school administrators could not pass these tests. I was accepted into college on a preliminary basis through a program for students with low SAT/ACT scores and high financial need. Without this kind of program I would have just been another number whose numbers didn’t add up on paper. Even on paper programs like No Child Left Behind, don’t look right or appeal to the masses of students who have been falling in the ever widening educational gap. I think of how those gaps have become chasms of missing pieces since Ward Connerly’s state-by-state campaign to eliminate Affirmative Action has reigned over states like California and Michigan. I consider the multitude of legendary institutions like Berkeley, Stanford, and Mills College and how such a large majority of California’s own students will never make it to their doors. I think about how few will see the doors to any educational institution at all. And pounding through my head is the thought of students like Arthur Mkoya who is an Armenian immigrant and valedictorian of his high school. He was raised in California but will be deported way before he can begin to feel burnt out about writing papers, frustrated by the lack of financial aid being offered, or complain about the high price of college textbooks. In reality Mkoya’s story could be any immigrant story. Over the last ten years so many immigrants have been deported for so little especially Cambodian, Arab, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Haitian immigrants. In this exciting season of graduations, I invite you to stretch further past the students who appear among their classmates with priceless smiles. Hopefully you will do something today to help a student, to encourage the opportunities particularly for students of color, for immigrant students, for students like me who were never supposed to make it at all.