As a new school in the 2015-2016 school year, DSISD’s founding class represented a very diverse population in terms of race, socioeconomic status, orientation, and more. As the second year of DSISD students came in for the 2016-2017 school year, the population of the school seemed to change dramatically. Our founding class was made up of much more diverse students compared to our 9th grade class. As we dug deeper into the issue, we realized that this was not a coincidence, through our sessions with our mentees during our pilot program of the Let Me Prove You Wrong mentorship program, we began to observe how students felt about their futures based on their socioeconomic status and background. We saw that the majority of our female mentees had a preconception that STEM fields were for males and males only which destroyed the idea of having a career in STEM all together. We also saw that in students who came from low income homes had low self efficacy; they felt that their futures were decided by their family’s financial situation. Essentially, many students were not attending schools that supported their growth and encouraged them to challenge themselves to pursue their dreams because they felt they were not good enough.
Lastly, we noticed that a lot of the students were not aware of the differences between high schools and what each high school had to offer. We found that many students don’t even know that there are options when it comes to what high school is best fit for them, so they just go with the flow instead of exercising agency, and choosing the best school for them. This pushed us to employ a mentorship program across DPS middle schools in order to encourage students to get excited about their futures and attend high schools that support their interests while also implementing an RTD bus policy that would allow for transportation to the high schools of their choice without their financial status holding them back. During our journey with the Student Board of Education and trying to find the right solution we got the opportunity to also participate in the Imaginarium Design Challenge. Our main goal is to inform students of all the options they have and ensure no opportunity is denied due to financial status, race, or any factor. This design challenge really helped us to clearly shape our mentorship program which would help middle schoolers pick the right high school for them no matter what socioeconomic background they come from.
Opportunities are often overlooked in middle school, and the high school you attend can have a tremendous impact on your future. We have noticed that students tend to do better academically and socially in high schools that cater to their needs. Our goal is to see students succeed in their schooling in order to be able to chase their dreams. Students deserve a high school that caters to their needs and prompts them to succeed to chase their dreams. Furthermore, students should be able to attend their dream highschool without their financial status getting in the way.