"I love my high school and believe that I am getting a high-quality education. I wonder if more diverse demographics in my school would lead to less hate and intolerance. I wonder if we could have more courageous conversations. ... I have come to realize the idea that zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of education you get!"
/By Sonya Rashkovan/ I moved from Ukraine to MoCo in 7th grade and it was a significant change for me in everything: language, country, school system. My parents almost rented an apartment in DC, but our new friends warned us that schools in DC were horrible. Later they instructed us that we absolutely had to get a house in a good neighborhood so that my brother and I could go to a decent school. That’s weird for me because, in Kyiv, school boundaries were quite fluid. Parents could choose the “neighborhood school” or the school closest to their work (my case). Also, it came as a surprise that rent prices differed drastically just 2-3 miles apart.
I adjusted pretty quickly and got used to teachers emphasizing that I was in the best middle school in the county. Coming from a predominantly white country, even the very few African-American students appeared diverse and different to me. I didn’t understand the issue with that until I traveled outside Bethesda. I realized that some schools and neighborhoods were much more diverse, and that I was rather uneducated as to why there was such a separation.
Until Ananya Tadikonda, former student member of the school board, introduced me to the Boundary Study, I didn’t even think about the significance of adding diversity to my school. Out of interest, I decided to go to the very first town hall meeting. For the first time, I heard about de-facto segregation and discovered that my less diverse school and more expensive housing was no coincidence. The response from parents drew even more attention to the issue, and I recognized that the topic wasn’t so simple, based on adverse reaction from some part of the community. The boundary study has brought to light various issues in the MoCo community as a whole and each neighborhood separately.
I realized in high school that even though my education was exquisite, something was missing. That something was various perspectives and having difficult, controversial discussions in and outside of the classroom.
I am very interested in finding out more about the opportunity gap and discrete segregation. However, I can never uncover the full picture of a diverse society just through the books. Sadly, due to the not very diverse school and place I live, I don’t have as many minority friends who I can ask about their experience with discrimination or just understand how their lives differ from mine. I can’t analyze my white privilege and learn how I can use it for the greater good.
I love my high school and believe that I am getting a high-quality education. I wonder if more diverse demographics in my school would lead to less hate and intolerance. I wonder if we could have more courageous conversations with more perspectives present in the classroom. I want other students to be able to get lots of AP courses, have a huge chorus, have arts and a theater program, and one of the best college prep programs. All students need these things to get a fair shot at their future.
Over this learning experience, I have come to realize the idea that zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of education you get!
Sonya Rashkovan is an MCPS student who’s passionate about equitable education and making students’ voices heard.