I went to high school at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE), a magnet school in Stamford, Conn. It was about a 2-mile drive each day; meanwhile, my district school was just down the street from where I lived, but my parents were adamant I go to the magnet school, and persisted until I got in.
Why is that? I soon find out; the experiences I had and the people I met at AITE molded my personality and developed my skills and hobbies, things that I carry with me every day. I was offered opportunities that have allowed me to get a head-start on my career, a luxury that most high school students don’t receive. Simply put, the school changed my life.
AITE was casual, carefree, relaxed, and safe. We had laptops that we could use in class to develop our tech skills. We had exploratory courses in things like aerospace engineering and crime scene investigation. We had experiential learning opportunities, like the Regional Business Plan competition where I took 1st place and won $1,500. Each of our classrooms had a projector, a SmartBoard, and a video player.
But most importantly, when I showed up at school, I didn’t have to constantly worry about my safety, or endure insults and hatred. It’s hard to develop your personality, to be the best you possible when you’re constantly under that kind of pressure. I didn’t have to, thanks to the diverse student body and helpful staff. This was why my parents wanted me to go here, and not to Stamford High where none of these boons could be found.
How exactly does one get into such a fabulous school, you might ask? A lottery; a lucky 700 of those who apply will get in, and the rest will likely go to their district schools. I could have ended up at Stamford High (the lowest scoring school in Stamford for English and math proficiency) for four years of my life, if not for a lucky draw from a hat.
Why do I deserve a better education with more funding than the rest of the district? Why aren’t the district schools at the same level of quality? This is but a small peek into the deep inequality issues that loom over education in America. My experience with them is limited, but each time I think back to those four years, I am forced to wonder: how different, and how much worse, would my life be if my name hadn’t been pulled from that hat?
By Daniil Chupalov