This month, beginning with National Charter Schools Week, we will feature stories from charter school graduates from across the country. Check back every day to see a new student feature in our 30 Days of Grad series. Today, we are also celebrating Proof Point Day - a national effort to recognize first generation college graduates. Briana is a first generation college graduate and will join the National Alliance staff in July!
When I think about what attending Marion P. Thomas Charter School (MPTCS) in Newark, New Jersey has meant to me, I immediately think about how different my life would have been had I not had the support of this charter school while I was in middle school. MPTCS invested in me—they did not let me fall through the cracks, they did not let me wallow in my pity, and they did not allow me to quit and become another statistic. They valued me, saw the potential in me, and worked to invest in that potential. I come from an institution that supported me from the time I entered those doors and even after I left those doors.
What does support mean? It means when I wanted to go to a boarding high school, the CEO of MPTCS took me and my mother in her car and drove us to Connecticut to interview. What does support mean? It means that when I was ready to apply to college, the staff at MPTCS was more instrumental in my success than my boarding high school guidance counselors. When I expressed that I wanted to be a doctor, the CEO flew me out to New Orleans to visit Xavier University, because she knew this school helped get the highest number of students of color into medical school. I stayed there for the weekend, and she showed me what life would be like if I went to school there. I had never been to New Orleans before, and not only did she show me what college was going to be like, she showed me what life would be like outside of Newark. It was because of my charter school that I could have these experiences, and these new expectations of myself.
When I enrolled at Rutgers University for college, MPTCS still supported me with a scholarship. Every year of undergraduate, I was a recipient of the Marion P. Thomas Charter School Foundation Scholarship. The scholarship came with a lot more support as well: they held me accountable, they monitored my grades and extracurricular activities, and they helped me maximize my college experience. They showed me that college was much more than just going to class. They helped me secure internships as an undergrad, and when I graduated, they helped me find a job. In fact, they created a fellowship program for me. They believed in me, and they knew I was going to be successful. I worked hard, so they created a 'boot camp' program to train me to be a success.
MPTCS is a school that was started for the community, by the community, to empower the community, and they live that truth in everything that they do. Their model is “it takes a village to raise a child,” and everyone in the school works to keep that village mentality alive. From the cafeteria workers who made sure we ate to the family workers who made sure our uniforms were clean and we were mentally prepared to go into a class and learn, to the security guards who walked us to the bus stops to make sure we were safe - MPTCS is different, and it’s why I believe in charter schools. They have the flexibility to invest in the whole child, and it is embedded into the culture of the school.