Students reflect on racial high school experience


Some freshmen at Florida A&M University (FAMU) wanted to share how they were able to adjust to the culture at a historically black college despite the racial injustices at their predominantly white high schools.

These students expressed that they were forced to meet a certain expectation and uphold a certain image which caused them to constantly feel left out at their high schools.

Candace Brown, who is an animal science student, said she was singled out during high school and wasn’t sure why individuals treated her differently.

“I didn’t feel like I was that different from everyone else, but they singled me out which was definitely weird for me because my family is very blended,” Brown said. “We’ve got a little bit of everyone [in my family]. So, it was just like ‘really? I’m different?’”

First-year music education student Morgan Stephens said attending a school with a small number of black students made students feel like they had to be careful of their actions.

“It’s very eye-opening. It makes you conscious and aware of your actions like you definitely have to ‘tip-toe’ more especially around a staff. There’s an expectation for you to need help,” Stephens said.

Stephens also said that the standards were set low for minority students at her high school and that when people at her school noticed she was articulate it was a surprise to them.

“I was a scholar at my school, so a lot of people, when I would address them, they would say ‘Oh my goodness, you’re so articulate, you’re so smart.’ And I’m like, why is that a surprise? So, you kinda have to adjust to being used to the expectations being low then showing them it’s not really that low.”

Lizzie McColly, a sociology student, said that she had one of the toughest experiences in high school by witnessing direct racism against herself and her black classmates.

“I’ve been called an n-lover to my face in school and there were rebel flags everywhere,” McColly said. “It was just a difficult place to be… I’ve gotten kicked out of class for defending one of my classmates from another racist student.”

According to secondary history education student Crishelle Bailey, the focus of these predominantly white high schools is making sure test scores are fit for colleges, and rarely on the student’s well-being.

“My high school was a lot more academically challenging. I took a lot of advanced placement courses—like my school was set on people taking higher level courses, [but] here at FAMU every class holds a life lesson,” Bailey said.

At FAMU all of these students agreed that they feel the university pushes them to succeed not only academically but in every aspect of life.

“My professor literally went leaps and bounds to help me get my grade up in a class and I’ve never gotten that before. Professors actually care about you,” Brown said. “You get more help than you’ve ever imagined.”

These Rattlers said that their transition was very comfortable because they were finally able to let their guard down at FAMU.

“The best part about my transition was just being surrounded by people who have the same mindset. It’s great to be around other educated, smart black people and being able to flourish in a way that a predominantly white school can’t give you,” Morgan said.

McColly added that “it’s a beautiful thing to see students—my friends, embrace their blackness.”

Certainly, this group of students could agree on one thing during their transition to FAMU from a predominantly white high school – “it’s okay to be yourself. It’s all family,” Bailey said.