The challenges of finding quality education in America are real, especially for students of color. Oliver Scholars, a program in New York City is setting out to break down some of those barriers for some of the most driven black and Latino young scholars.
“Twenty-five percent of the schools with the highest concentration of black and Latino students don’t even have Alegebra II,” says Dr. David Allyn, CEO of Oliver Scholars in an exclusive interview with theGrio.
“If you don’t have Algebra II, you don’t have Trigonometry, Pre-calculus… You just can’t get into a top college. The resource issue is affecting students at a very young age and they’re just shut out of the system.”
For students of color who want to excel, turning to independent and private schools is one option in response to the lack of access and advanced courses.
“There’s a lot of stereotypical ideas around how people view young students of color especially because of education and not having certain privileges,” says Labeebah Subair, a high school student in the Oliver Scholars program. “But students of color have passions as well.”
Students who get into Oliver Scholars get academic and personal support during the summer and school year, and apply to some of the most prestigious and challenging private schools in the the city. Each student is assigned a mentor. The program is completely free.
“This past year we had close to 1000 students nominated by New York City guidance counselors for 85 spots in our program so it’s very competitive to get in,” says Allyn.
Over the course of the program’s 30-year history, 100 percent of students graduated from high school. About 90 percent go on to attend schools on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of top 100 colleges, and 30 percent attend Ivy League college.
Subair dreams of working in technology or medicine, and cherishes having other black and Latino scholars to work alongside.
“It’s amazing being able to connect with others who have similar experiences to mine and certain goals and passions that they are looking towards,” says Subair. “Going to a school that’s predominantly white I don’t get that experience every day.”
For other students who want to push their education to the next level, whether it be through Oliver Scholars or another academic program, Subair offers the following advice:
“Be open to opportunities. Don’t decline anything. I remember seeing the Oliver application and it was long. Don’t be discouraged by the amount of work you have to do because it’s gonna pay off.”
Watch the rest of our exclusive interview with Dr. David Allyn and Labeebah Subair and learn more about Oliver Scholars here.