This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
Just because students attend school in the same district doesn’t mean they have the same experience. In fact, their education might reveal extreme contrasts.
Consider these two high schools: One campus, Carnegie Vanguard, is ranked as one of the best high schools in the entire country.
Senior Zaakir Tameez, 17, attends that first campus. Aviance Obie, 17, is a junior at the second school.
They met this year in the new HISD Student Congress, a grassroots advocacy group, and quickly realized that an Advanced Placement, or AP, class at one campus didn’t stack up to an AP class at the other.
They talk about how they realized those differences, and what they are trying to do to improve them.
Here’s a transcript of their conversation:
Zaakir Tameez: You had said that at your school, and correct me, at Westbury, it was like, for the World History AP, it was like a few hundred students had taken it, but only a couple had passed?
Aviance Obie: Yeah, it was about 200 kids (that) had taken it. I remember we filled up the gym. And only three kids had passed the exam out of all of the kids who had filled up our humongous gym.
Zaakir: I took the World History AP and I don’t think I even studied. And, you know, I passed just fine.
Aviance: I studied all night. I watched a bunch of crash-course videos and I looked through all my textbooks and I got a 3 which, I mean, it’s not barely passing, but I was aiming for a 4 or 5, but …
Zaakir: I mean you had the right textbooks, right?
Aviance: I think we might have had textbooks for that class but they’re extremely outdated.
Zaakir: I think it kind of wakes you up. Because then you start to realize just how much of a bubble you live in, whatever bubble that is. You know, because at my school, the issue with APs wasn’t passing. It was doing the best you can. It was getting the 5 out of 5 perfect score.
Aviance: They are completely different experiences. I’ve learned that we both go to HISD, but we have such drastic experiences through just one exam.
I initially joined the Student Congress to see if there was some way that I could fix, like, the issues that affect us at our school, because there are kids who barely knew how to write an essay half a page long.
I joined it thinking maybe there was some way through here I can get to and talk to somebody who was higher, or maybe we could rally together …
Zaakir: So, how do you think the Student Congress can help?
Aviance: When we go into board meetings, I think we’ll be able to influence a lot of votes. I think we’ll be able to bring up a lot of issues that are here, that are everywhere, and get not only HISD to listen to us, but our community to listen to us.
Zaakir: I’ve gotten emails from administrators at HISD, you know, ‘Hey, can you help us evaluate the Mexican-American studies program?’ You know, ‘Hey, can you help us look over the Power Up?’ So now we’re going to meet with them to say what works and doesn’t work with HISD laptops.
You know, we’ve met with the right people. We’ve set the foundation. We have the students. We have the numbers and now we got to take those numbers and leverage it to get these issues solved.
Aviance: To me, the Student Congress means that I have a voice. Like, the adults can finally listen to the kids for once and learn that, you know, we’re a lot more mature than a lot of them would like to think, that we can handle ourselves. We understand our responsibilities, but we also deserve the respect, too.
One of the issues that I had was that it was impossible for me to contact my principal. I still haven’t seen him since the first week of school.
Zaakir: So you’re saying it’s hard to reach your principal, you know, well, we’ve been able to reach the superintendent. So, it’s getting somewhere because now we’re able to get to these higher-level people that may not necessarily interact with students in their daily lives. But now we can interact with them. We can say, ‘Hey, have you ever asked us what we think?’
Aviance: Now, I think we can do more.