Let the Kids Speak: Jose, 12th Grader From New York City

This school year, I’m officially a senior. The last year of high school will be a fulfilling and exhausting experience full of challenges, victories, and life-changing moments—but I know I have what I need to be successful in college and beyond. In a way, I’ve prepared all my life for college. But the truth is, my positive mindset around my future didn’t develop until about three years ago.

Looking back, I don’t think any other school could have prepared me like my school, EPIC High School North. Since my first year here, teachers and staff have been talking to me about college, helping me become more invested and secure in my future. Unlike many other schools, my friends at EPIC North and I are individually guided to success. One part of this is a class called “CORE,” an advisory-like group focused on building honest relationships between students and staff. Of course, different students have access to different resources, and there is only so much a teacher can do about that. But the truth is when a student and educator build a healthy, professional relationship a resource is created—the kind of resource you can’t put a price tag on. Quick check-ins and questions such as “How are you feeling?” go a long way. 

I’m really looking forward to spending this last year with the supportive community of students we’ve established at EPIC North—one that feels like family. Seeing all my friends on the first day of school felt incredible. I talked about how I spent my summer interning with TNTP and New York City Teaching Fellows, and how it helped reinforce my drive to become a teacher and show the world the importance of having more men of color in the profession. My peers at EPIC were incredibly encouraging when I told them about my summer experiences. I’m going to miss them when I graduate, but I know we’ll stay in touch—hopefully forever. 

I am beyond excited about the SAT, ACT, and all the other fun exams I get to take this year…Kidding! I’ve never understood how people believe this sort of testing can accurately differentiate students that are “college-ready.” I’ve known so many kids who’ve done well on those tests just because they had the money to hire a tutor, and not because they were really college-ready. And I have met other students who didn’t do as well on the tests but are very smart and have the social-emotional skills they needed for college. All that aside, I’m not too intimidated by the tests since there are many great people supporting me.

Like I said, after I graduate college, I see myself in an educator’s role. Looking ahead, I plan on getting my undergraduate degree in something that will support that work. It could be anything from education to psychology to ethnic studies because I’ve seen that there isn’t just one path to becoming a great teacher. But I’m not going to wait until I finish college to start making an impact. My experience with my mentors at EPIC North has inspired me to pursue opportunities to mentor kids like me who might not see their experiences reflected in those who society deems “successful.” 

I hope that I’m able to provide the kind of understanding and guidance that others have offered me—and I can’t wait to meet my future students. 

Read more about students' experiences in school in​ The Opportunity Myth—then take the first step by requesting your own free action guide featuring tools and advice to help more students in your community have worthwhile experiences in school.       

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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