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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Set to Tackle Minority Issues

In the three-day Minority Youth Conference, hosted by Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights high schools, students from 15 districts nationwide met to discuss the minority achievement gap that many say is universal in U.S. high schools.

The districts were chosen based on their success in closing the testing gap for minorities.

"It was a very empowering experience for all the students," said Graig Meyer, district mentor advocate and group leader for Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill students were invited to participate because the school district is at the top of state schools, boasting the best standardized test scores overall for minority students.

From Oct. 4-7, Shari Manning, Adejare Adeleke and Philip Locke, from East Chapel Hill High School, joined Stanley Foushee and Jecenta Obie, from Chapel Hill High School, to travel to Cleveland. All the students are minorities.

The students attended classes and speeches and participated in meetings, where they took and shared notes on how their individual high schools successfully aided the performance of minority students.

"(The students) handled rough issues very well," Meyer said. "It was valuable in showing these students that they are not alone in the country."

Joanne McClelland, an English teacher at CHHS who helped lead the group, said the male students in the group were specifically inspired by the success of the mentor program at Shaker Heights High School.

"To see very bright black males dressed in a necktie and looking professional and getting respect from their peers was quite exciting," she said. "The audience was very quiet and seemed in awe. That is something."

In the conference, students from each district were asked to contribute their opinions on what causes the minority gap. Obie, a sophomore at CHHS, said most of the groups agreed that minority students fall behind in elementary school.

"We thought of programs that will help in the near future," she said. "Students need tutoring, maybe in the fifth grade to help transition into high school. If you slack off fourth, fifth, sixth grades, (then) high school's not going to work."

Obie said she participates in Academic Betterment through Individual Development, a program at CHHS that gives minority students individual attention. McClelland, who is a staff leader of this program, said she agreed with Obie. "Unintentionally, students are being left behind early on," she said.

"I think that early mentoring would help this problem."

But McClelland said she is proud of the kids that represented Chapel Hill at the conference and of the school district that sent them.

"We were the most southern school, I suppose," she said.

"But I realized that we have made tremendous gains compared to the other schools around the nation."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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