Going to college or entering the workforce after graduating from high school are quintessential milestones for our nation’s students. Preparing for these key life events starts long before a student gets their diploma and has traditionally focused on a narrow set of academic markers, namely performing well in advanced courses — whether AP, IB, or dual enrollment. But for students of color especially, the academics are not enough, when you’re the Only One. Says one Black female student, “I’m in honors classes and the room is mostly blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I walk in with my hair like this and the darkest person in there. And it’s very unsettling. It’s just weird not to see people like me around.” Black and Latino students need additional skills and assets to succeed and thrive in a racist and oppressive society and, ultimately, change it.

At The Education Trust, much of our college and career readiness work has focused on ensuring that Black and Latino students have equitable access to advanced courses. Research has shown that exposure to such classes and supports that help students succeed in them are essential components in preparing students for college and the professional world. But students — especially those of color — also need opportunities to engage with curricula, programs, and policies that unapologetically center race, so they’ll be well positioned to confront and dismantle systemic racism.

To this end, we must reimagine and rebuild schooling systems, policies, practices, and procedures in ways that prepare students of color to enter, thrive in, and upend a racially oppressive status quo. We must help students to enhance and leverage their social skills, as well as their cultural identities, assets, and capital, so they can enter college ready to advocate for themselves and their communities. And we must do so now.

This blog series will explore new and imaginative ways to support students of color as they prepare for college and career opportunities. You’ll read about exciting and innovative policies, programs, practices, and research that underscores the need for a race-conscious approach to college and career preparedness. As two contributors to this series, Joanna Ali and Kia Allah, so eloquently explain, the goal of a race-conscious approach to college and career readiness is “to create the next generation of Black and Latino youth who are critically conscious and have the tools to create the futures that they envision for themselves and their community.”

In this blog series, you’ll learn how:

  • DC Public Schools committed to its majority Black and Latino student body’s success beyond graduation by leveraging data, data systems, and a college coaching model that helps students navigate small bumps in the road that can disrupt their educational journey and ensures that more students not only attend college but stay enrolled once there and go on to graduate and succeed thereafter.
  • School counselors can create space for Black and Latino students to name the inequities within their schools and develop solutions using a method called youth participatory action research (YPAR) — based on their own lived experiences — in small group settings and how giving students agency in their learning and equipping them with qualitative skills can enhance college and career readiness.
  • Anaheim United High School District created a comprehensive career preparedness systems framework that centers high-quality career and technical education (CTE) as a viable postsecondary pathway for Black and Latino students.
  • A group of high school students in North Carolina known as the Freedom Struggle Committee have been working to erect a memorial to victims of lynching and dismantle systems of white supremacy while learning to question dominant narratives, think critically, and develop other key college readiness skills in the process.
  • Educators in the iScholar Program created a nurturing and culturally responsive space where Black and Latino students learned about the literary movement called Afrofuturism and used it and a critical design process to develop a culturally affirming school model that not only teaches them about STEM, design aesthetics, equity, mentorship, and collaboration, but meets their individual needs and leverages community assets.
  • Black undergraduate women can learn to navigate and challenge the microaggressions and oppression they experience in educational settings and overcome feelings of isolation by looking to school staff and community-based mentors who are committed to supporting them as they prepare for college.

Bear in mind that the approaches outlined here are but a few of the many promising examples in the field. As we continue to explore this issue at The Education Trust, we invite others to be creative in their efforts to adopt race-conscious approaches and diligent in studying the effectiveness of programs, policies, practices, and approaches like those named in this series, so they can be scaled up when and where appropriate if proven to be successful.

Explore the Other Entries in the Series