Five Chapel Hill students are packing their bags and heading to Ohio for a forum on the nationwide ethnic gap in student achievement.
The students will be taking part in a minority student conference at Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights high schools. The conference includes three days of classes and discussions on ways high schools can help minorities succeed.
Joanne McClelland, a Chapel Hill High School English teacher, will accompany the students from her high school.
"Chapel Hill wanted to be a part of (the conference)," she said. "We have the highest minority SATs in the state."
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools nominated Shari Manning, Adejare Adeleke and Phillip Locke of East Chapel Hill High School and Stanley Foushee and Jecenta Obie of Chapel Hill High School to participate in the conference.
Each of these students defies national statistics by performing well in school. In general, minority high school students, except Asian-Americans, lag behind in grade averages and standardized test scores.
At the convention, students will present factors within their individual schools that have contributed to their success. The program aims to identify the best techniques and settings for eventual profit of all minority youths.
Several programs in the school systems have played important roles in helping minority students.
Students from East Chapel Hill High School have been active with the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate, which provides minority elementary school students with guidance through their high school years.
Graig Meyer, district Mentor Advocate coordinator, said the program offers a valuable opportunity for minority students.
"We work with kids who are working up to their potential," he said. "And we've been very successful."
The Minority Student Achievement Network, a national organization dedicated to improving minority performance, is playing a large role in the upcoming conference.
The network is sponsoring 15 suburban school districts and included Chapel Hill schools in the forum because the district perennially displays excellence and is especially successful in reducing the achievement gap, said Areda Walker of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school system in Ohio.
"These districts are the most successful districts in the country," said ECHHS Principal David Thaden. "We hope that the districts pool resources and look for new approaches to the problem."
Meyer said he is not surprised to see successful results from programs aimed to help minority achievement, including the Blue Ribbon program.
But he said the programs owe part of that success to the eradicable nature of the achievement gap.
"We believe that African-American and Latino kids have the same potential as white kids, and we want to help them in every way to recognize this potential."
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