Throughout my education, I’ve asked myself the recurring question many students ask themselves – how will this prepare me for the future? Recently as National Charter Schools Week was celebrated, I was reminded how my public charter school provided me with an obtainable career path and the correct tools and resources to succeed. Growing up, I struggled with transferring through a series of underperforming traditional public schools as my parents had to move frequently for work. My ability to learn was severely hindered, and my parents feared I would soon begin falling behind.
My parents frantically searched for alternatives, but private schools were too expensive for a middle-class family of immigrants. At first, they were reluctant to consider a new charter school opening near our home. Admissions were on a lottery-based system and they were unsure if the school would accept a Hispanic child who had only a year left of middle school. My parents soon learned that by law charter schools must accept students who apply, regardless of their background. In fact, charter schools are made for students just like me.
According to a 2017 study of Florida’s public charter schools, 67.8 percent of students served were minorities. Hispanic students comprised 41.5 percent of Florida’s charter school enrollment, and 20.5 percent were African-American students. Opened in 2008, Pinecrest Preparatory Middle-High Charter quickly became a highly desirable option for students and parents in Miami. Being fortunate enough to be an alumnus of their third graduating class of high school seniors, I was able to experience an innovative and personalized style of education that I had yet to encounter in the traditional public school system.
I was also reluctant at first to attend a charter school, but looking back it molded me into who I am today. The combination of state-of-the-art technology and hands-on learning made the school day fun and exciting. School leaders created a learning environment which focused on each individual student with smaller class sizes than traditional public schools.
Students at my school also benefited from a school uniform, which established a foundation for how to present ourselves in a real-world environment. While putting on a uniform each morning initially seemed bothersome, wearing professional attire to school served to develop me as a leader and was a daily reminder of the value of my education.
Thanks to the school’s culture of high-expectations and college readiness, I entered my senior year of high school with an invaluable amount of skills that have still proven effective years later. Guidance counselors became the greatest resource by guaranteeing each student had not only admission into college, but the knowledge of which direction they desired to take their career.
Education is more than the ability to read properly and solve complex math equations, it’s developing the next generation for the future. Making sure students are prepared for success beyond graduation day is essential for if we want to ensure our kids are better off than the generations before them.
Today, in my senior year of college at Florida International University, I still wear button-down shirts and emerald green ties that closely resemble my old uniform. But, that’s not the only thing I took with me to higher education. I also brought the skills I learned in high school that gave me the confidence to be a leader in my community.
My school prepared me for the real-world applications that sound basic in nature such as tying a tie, public speaking, and drafting a resume, but are foreign to so many students in traditional classrooms.
Florida parents should ask themselves, how is my child’s school preparing him or her for the future? Thankfully, my parents were empowered with the opportunity to choose a learning environment that prepared me for success.
About the author
Juan C. Porras
Juan C. Porras is a public charter school alumnus, a senior at Florida International University and an advocate for quality education for all students.