American colleges and universities are consistently ranked among the best in the world, but not all students in the US have access to the top-notch educations and opportunities they offer. For example, in 2015, African-American and Hispanic students accounted for just 14.1% and 17.3% of total college enrollment, respectively, which reveals countless students of color are losing out on the life-changing experience of a college education.
A lack of educational access has the unfortunate effect of perpetuating patterns of inequality. As a result, students of color—who are academically able and talented but may be economically disadvantaged—need new options and new avenues forward if they’re to have a better chance succeeding as adults.
I know such opportunities are possible because they’ve been an integral part of my own life story. As a student in Baltimore, my middle school guidance counselor, Marie Bessicks, encouraged me to apply to programs offered through A Better Chance, an organization that recruits, places, and provides financial aid for students to attend some of the country’s best secondary schools. I was accepted and went on to attend Phillips Academy Andover, which helped pave the way for my college education and professional life as an adult.
I’m happy to support A Better Chance so other students can enjoy the same opportunities that I had, and I was honored to be recognized with their Dreambuilder Award last year.
A Better Chance was founded in 1963 when the headmasters of 23 elite independent schools committed to changing the compositions of their student bodies (my alma mater, Andover, was one of the founding schools). That year, 55 students from low-income families were chosen to complete their secondary educations at these schools.
Now in its 54th year, A Better Chance helps more than 2,000 students attend at close to 350 elite schools each year. It’s a diverse cohort: about 67% are African-American; 16% Latino; 7% Asian American; 1% Native American; the remaining 9% identify as multiracial or as other. And while 24% of students of color nationwide enroll in college, 96% of A Better Chance’s graduates go on to enroll in institutions of higher education, which demonstrates the incredible impact of its programs and its power to change lives.
There are no silver bullets when it comes to solving issues of inequality or educational access, but there are solutions that can empower young men and women to unlock their potential and open new doors for their futures. For many students, there is A Better Chance.