It’s the moment that Harlem high school senior Winston Perez-Ventura learned of his early acceptance into Cornell.

It’s also the moment that staff at Democracy Prep realize a dream come true, that their students have been accepted to every Ivy League University. That’s particularly impressive when you consider the large overall uptick in black college enrollment, but top-tiered public and private universities have seen a drop.

For example, according to a piece in the The Atlantic last year, the percentage of black undergraduates at Harvard was 7.4 percent in 1994 . In 2013 it was down to 6.5 percent. Not a huge difference, but noticeable when considering the upward trend of college enrollment for black students.

Consider this (from the article)…

Since 1994, black enrollment has doubled at institutions that primarily grant associate degrees, including community colleges. In 2013, black students accounted for 16 percent of the student body there, versus 11 percent in 1994.

Universities focusing on bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees also broadly saw gains, with blacks making up 14 percent of the population, compared to 11 percent in 1994.

But at top-tier universities, black undergraduate populations average 6 percent, a statistic that has remained largely flat for 20 years. (It’s less than half of what their share of the population might suggest; the Census reports that 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 24 are black.) While some schools have had success—the University of Missouri’s main campus has actually increased its black share by 3 percentage points since 1994—the median school barely budged.

This graph makes the problem easier to see:


Knowing that college completion has an enormous impact on lifetime earnings, and income has a huge impact on the quality of life we live, the moment above should be seen are more than a student receiving an acceptance letter.

It should be seen as a world of opportunity opening up, barriers broken, and a hopeful future emerging.

There will be some critics who will miss that point because Democracy Prep is in a network of  independent public schools. You know them as “charter schools,” and it’s very possible you exist on one “side” or another of the supposedly two-sided battle about these schools.

If any school creates moments like the one in the video above, we should shut down our differences about the kind of school it is, and applaud their success.

And, we should do everything possible to get more students into Winston Perez-Ventura’s seat.


Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


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