Alexandra Zagbayou’s Morning Brilliance Speech

First, I want you to close your eyes and picture what success looks like to you. There are no right answers to this question. What does success look like? Once you have that picture in your mind, create a picture of what a successful student looks like? When you have a picture in your mind, open your eyes, but do not lose that imagine. 

I was in the 11th grade, the same grade as our oldest Student U students, when I was forced to realize that many people’s image of success often does not look like, sound like or act like me. It was the first day of class and I was walking into honors U.S history. My friends and I were catching up since we hadn’t seen each other since the summer and made our way to the front right corner of his classroom. With a look of alarm, our teacher followed us to our seats and said “This is honors U.S history,” the regular class is downstairs. I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of confusion and anger. I thought “Is this man kidding? Has he not heard about me? I’m AlexandraZagbayou; I am a GREAT student. Why would he assume that I am here by mistake?” All I said was “Yes, sir, I am supposed to be in this class.”  He quickly walked to the door, slammed it and made his way to the front of the room. He lectured us about that fact this was an honors class and that the regular class of downstairs. He said, “I do not give A’s, I will not help you write papers, I do not take late work, do not have your parents call me.” At the end of his speech, he encouraged us to consider whether we prepared to succeed in his class and gave us the option to move downstairs. I left the class enraged, ashamed, and confused. 

I spoke at length with my mentor about this experience and expressed my desire to transfer. She urged me to stay in the class because she was convinced that I would learn a great deal from him and could use this opportunity to challenge his assumptions of what successful students looked like, sounded liked and acted like. I listened to her advice, stayed in the class and spent my junior year forcing Mr. Goodwin to talk to me, by maintaining the highest average in his class.  

Assumptions are so pervasive that they hinder us from receiving the education we need to succeed. Assumptions destroy self-confidence. Assumptions create negative self- fulfilling prophesies that keep us from achieving our dreams. Thankfully for us, assumptions can be challenged and provide us a space to change the minds, attitudes and perspectives of the people who we encounter.
Here at Student U we have a crazy belief and ridiculous dream. We believe that all children regardless of race and social economic background can succeed. We strive to ensure that 100% of our students will graduate from high school, enroll and succeed in college. We are 100% college bound.

The Countdown to College is official on. We have exactly 462 until of our class of 2014 students commit to the colleges of their choice. When we join together on May 14 for our official Signing Day, students will sign their banners and we celebrate their accomplishments of as they announce where they will be going for college. We will also celebrate the role we have played as a community to ensure that all students are provided with the opportunities and support they need to succeed. We will celebrate our commitment to challenge the assumptions captured by our 6th grade students and beat the statistics. We will celebrate the successful completion of a first millstone on our journey, but will be quickly resume the work that will lay ahead of us then: ensuring that 100% of our students graduate from college on time.


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