It was a late shift. I went into the bathroom before I finished up and clocked out. Half of my mind was on restocking donuts while the other half was on my college applications. As I left the bathroom, I heard, “Can’t believe they let these hoodlums share a restroom with us men.” Disgusted, I turned around to find two white men glaring at me. I took their words into consideration and wondered why they failed to recognize that I was a black boy in America trying to be successful just like everyone else. I was determined to not let racism dictate my success.

In his college application essay, Kevin, a senior at the Urban Assembly Media High School, is candid about his daily experiences with racism and profiling as a young black man in America. He talks of growing up feeling like he was not good enough; of battling depression at 17; of giving up on school and life. More than 65% of the New York City public school system is comprised of black and brown students who, like Kevin, are trying to navigate their way through school in the face of social and economic challenges that are symptomatic of systematic, institutionalized racism.

The Urban Assembly created a network of public schools where students are inspired and engaged, and thrive in safe and equitable system. Our students are 90% black and Latinx, with 86% coming from low-income backgrounds. In a UA school, students like Kevin are empowered to speak up and speak out about the challenges they face, and address them head-on.

My goal is to become black excellence. Black excellence is going to college, graduating, and owning businesses. I won’t have to live in a world where I am judged based on my skin color but judged based on what I have accomplished. My attendance at college will pave the way for intellectual growth. It will allow me to interact with others to establish a change in society’s view of a black man.

Kevin A., UA Media High School, Class of 2020

At the UA we cultivate a diverse community of school leaders, teachers, counselors, and coaches who continuously push our students to dream big and accomplish more. We are proud of the fact that the UA graduates black students at a rate that is 12% higher than the citywide average, and that statewide nearly 25% more of our students enroll in college.

As the UA celebrates Black History Month, we are proud to honor the tradition of ingenuity, innovation, and achievement of African-Americans by continuing to promote and foster excellence in our students.