On any given weeknight, Steve Pierre-Jean is scribbling away at French homework. He’s a high school senior and is looking forward to studying international relations next year at Duke University.
Across town, junior Britini Williams spends her evenings unwinding with family after a long day at school.
Both are black prep school students, trying to take advantage of all that their private educations offer.
Photography lessons in Paris and prestigious internships are just some of the opportunities their schools provide. But for Steve and Britini, with this great exposure comes a downside.
“I’m the minority in my class,” Britini said.
That means she walks a delicate line between home life and school life.
WATCH BRITINI AND STEVE’S STORY BELOW
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“If you think of the student who grows up on the Upper East Side, the difference between home life and school life isn’t that great.” Columbia University Professor Shamus Khan said. “But for students who didn’t grow up in this environment, it’s like moving to a different country. In some ways you have to live two existences.”
Former prep schooler Andre Lee created a documentary about his experience growing up in Philadelphia.
“I felt extremely out of place,” he said. “I felt like everyone was different from me. No one spoke like me. No one dressed like me.”
It’s two worlds with a high price tag, even though tuition is covered by a scholarship both Britini and Steve. Still, their parents say the practice of balancing two different lives can also benefit their children.
“That’s the African-American experience,” said Ronald Williams, Britini’s father. “You learn to navigate in multiple worlds in order to seize opportunities.”