Parents move from one school district to another because they believe that will give their kids a better education. Some parents get extremely mad that their precious children would ever sit in class next to those “Woodward Elementary School kids” or those “Cross Keys gang members.” To be blunt, others have gone as far as labeling us “those Mexicans.” That never bothers me because we won’t let someone else’s ignorance define who we are. What bothers me is how fast adults can look down on students, especially if they have children too.
I cannot change anyone’s perception of Cross Keys or any of its feeder schools. However, I can speak of my experiences and the students that I met at the school that others have labeled as the worst in DeKalb.
I now go to Williams College, a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Most of you might have never heard about it but it has been ranked the number one college in America by Forbes Magazine for the past two years and its alumni, 10-19 years into the work force, earn more than those of any other college. At first, it bothered me that not too many people knew about this wonderful institution, but I soon figured out that those who mattered knew about Williams. The campus is filled with major Wall Street firms each yet recruiting our seniors.
Some community members might have forgotten about Cross Keys and sworn up and down that their kids would never sit next to one of us, but those who matter, haven’t forgotten about us. Williams College, Pomona College, Stanford University and the University College London, some of the best institutes of higher learning on the planet, all know about Cross Keys. The Gates Millennium Scholarship, arguably the most prestigious scholarship a high schooler can be awarded, knows about us, the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation, the most competitive high school scholarship in the country, the Dell Scholars Program, The Buick Achievement Program, Questbridge Scholars Program, The Bank of America Student Leaders Program, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, the Comcast Scholars Program, the Atlanta National Football Foundation and many more all know about Cross Keys. Those who think Cross Keys is a place for gangs and “those kids” are focusing on the wrong thing. What we focus on, we magnify. When your child comes to Cross Keys, chances are he or she will be sitting next to a future scholar and not a gang member as others may have you believe.
There a lot of problems that our school needs to fix. When Cross Keys is compared to other schools and people point out all the areas that we fail and cast the first stone, they neglect the fact that Cross Keys has students who come from over 30 countries and speak over 60 languages, no other school in the state can say that. They neglect all the good and focus on the bad. What we focus on, we magnify.
When they magnify all the bad, they never see the countless hours our teachers spend after school teaching English to students who are eager to learn. They never see all the scholars the school produces each year. They never see how many students the football and soccer programs have saved who could have otherwise been on the streets, and they never see teachers and coaches who turn down better paying jobs so that they could make a different at Cross Keys.
I believe most people have a negative view of Cross Keys because everything they hear about it is from other people in the community. I am a big fan of the internet, but if you want to really find out what we are all about at Cross Keys, come visit us, volunteer with us, come to one of our games, meet our students and teachers and then decide what you really think. Very few people come and leave with the same opinion.
Special thanks to Vy Tran. Cross Keys '11. Stanford '15.