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Through the eyes of our students: Hispanic student on helping other minority students with high school success

Neidy Valeria Estrada Olmeda, a rising senior at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, said she arrived at high school with little knowledge as to what she needed for success — things like how a GPA works, the importance of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and how to navigate the college application process.

“I came into high school with a metaphorical blindfold that I had to take off myself,” Olmeda said. Having parents who do not speak English and do not have knowledge of the experience, Olmeda said, has pushed her to figure things out on her own. 

“They push you into education, they’re hard on that, but it’s not the same if they don’t know what you have to do to get that education,” she said.

As EducationNC unpacks “E(race)ing Inequities: The State of Racial Equity in North Carolina Public Schools,” a new report from the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), Olmeda’s story is the third in a series of video installments that highlight stories of high school students of color. Watch below for Olmeda’s story of how she is using her own experience to help other students of color and their families.

Olmeda remembers having to ask to be placed in Honors Biology and noticing a stark contrast in the color of students in regular and honors courses. Statewide, in 2016-17, 16.5% of the student population was Hispanic, while only 13% of students in honors courses were Hispanic.

“Why? Why did I have to go out of my way to get put into a class?” Olmeda said. “I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I know a big one for kids is that there’s no representation in those classes for them.”

Olmeda said she sees a variety of ways that advanced courses are not welcoming environments for students of color. Though she is entering her senior year, she has never taken an AP course. According to the new CREED report, in the 2016-17 school year, 14.7% of North Carolina high schoolers were Hispanic but only 9.4% of students in AP courses were Hispanic. 

“I know that’s going to affect my college applications,” she said.

Olmeda, with the help of a teacher from school, set up parent sessions to inform students and their families on aspects of both the high school experience and the college application process. A daughter of immigrants, Olmeda said she and her mom have attended each session.

“I wish there was a club like that for me when I was younger,” she said.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.