When graduates have to start from behind

Posted8/8/2016 1:00 AM

Education is one of the most vital components of an individual's development, playing a role in political participation, economic opportunities and social mobility. Unfortunately, many Waukegan High School students are deprived of a quality education.

In essence, a high school diploma for many Waukegan graduates is a lifelong passport of social exclusion. According to the Illinois Report Card, in 2015, only 19 percent of Waukegan High School students were prepared for college after they graduated from high school.


The school's math, science and reading proficiency is well below the state and national average. If education is a race to the finish line, it is clear that some students are given a significant head start, while other students are told to catch up while wearing a 75-pound rucksack -- a task that is nearly impossible.

Still, a college education is not an insurmountable task for Waukegan High students. The important question to ask, is what does the college gauntlet look like for a graduate of Waukegan High?

For me, the gauntlet required two junior colleges, two years of remedial courses in math, reading and writing, four years of active duty military service and mental health support.

As a dual-degree law and social work student at Case Western Reserve University surrounded by a plethora of students who had the privilege to receive a quality education, I am constantly reminded of my poor high-school education.

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In 2006, the year I graduated, the Illinois State Board of Education, reported that roughly 70 percent of Waukegan High students had a status of academic warning or below standard in math, reading, and science. As my 10-year class reunion approaches, I have no choice but to ask myself, will Waukegan High start to prepare its students for the future or continue to make college hardly possible?

Johnathan Duffie


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