I Am Somebody … Who Has a Choice
“In this class, we learn about government; the three branches are legislative, executive, and judicial,” said De La Salle student Trinity with an air of confidence as she gestured to drawings on the classroom’s white board.
Trinity, a school ambassador, led a tour through De La Salle Middle School, a private Catholic school that serves low-income, predominantly African-American students. The school, funded largely through charitable donations, is inspiring—high class participation, positive atmosphere, and flexible grouping by ability. The most impressive quality, however, is that the students forge their own educational paths: “I want to go to Incarnate Ward,” Trinity said.
Trinity, like her peers, is highly tuned in to the various high school options available to her. Her fellow eighth and seventh graders are required to attend high school prep classes once a week, introducing them to both public and private options in the St. Louis area.
Like many other middle schools, De La Salle’s students explore colleges and careers and learn skills that will allow them to be successful in high school. The difference is that students at De La Salle decide which high school fits their own educational agenda, instead of just hoping that the school down the street will fit their personality, goals, and abilities.
“What are you looking for in a high school?” I asked Trinity.
She thought for only a moment. “Diversity,” she said.
Other students expressed different characteristics. “I want to attend a high school with a high average ACT score,” said one student. “I want to attend a school with a good sports program,” said another.
After students graduate from De La Salle, counselors continue to check in once a quarter to ensure students are adapting well to the educational environment they have selected. Individualized goal setting, family involvement, and graduate follow-up have made all the difference.
The high school graduation rate for De La Salle students is 98 percent. This is an impressive statistic considering the graduation rate for the surrounding area is 76.39 percent or less, according to IFF. The typical variables that affect graduation rates are race, income, and family status. One other variable should be considered—educational choice.
De La Salle students are beating odds because they are in the driver’s seat. Being somebody—the school’s mantra—is about choice, and De La Salle students are not just choosing high schools, they’re also choosing success.