AVID Seniors Feel Isolated in AP and Honors Classes Due to Lack of Diversity and Integration


Betsy Cifuentes, Contributor

AVID Students of color report feeling belittled in predominantly white AP/HP classrooms at San Rafael High School due to lack of diversity and integration. When it comes to these classes there appears to be great absence of representation. This contributes to a potentially dangerous recurring cycle of students more likely feeling uncomfortable, less prepared for college, and not up for the challenge when it comes to taking these classes. Not to mention this possibly making them a less competitive candidate in the application process. 

AVID senior Melissa Gongora said, “It makes me feel discouraged and upset because I feel as if I’ll never be good enough because I’m competing against all these extremely involved high level students.”

AVID students feel as if they need an expansion of resources to support them within these classes. Well-known AP teacher Mr. Allan also believes that we need more resources available to expand our support system for these students who lack knowledge about these courses because, “Students need to understand what is offered and the benefits from it. There also should be a more robust structured network in which students know what supports there are in place. Overall, there does need to be more help available for those students that need it.” 

 “We shouldn’t stop encouraging the students who are the minority on our campus to take these classes but instead provide support by being equitable with our choices as a school so that it is reflective on our students reassuring that all students have a voice,” said counselor, Ms. Fernandez. 

“Sometimes teachers pick & choose which students they build relationships with and give most of their attention to them, making us feel as if we don’t get the same help they receive, which ruins our way of learning,” said Jenifer Cifuentes, AVID senior.

Staff and administrators had a few push-ins with Ms. Oseguera’s AVID class before applying for their final selection of courses for their senior year. Push-ins consisted of educating students about these classes and making them more aware, encouraging them all to take at least one. Now the great majority of these seniors are enrolled in at least one AP/HP class after lengthy discussions and presentations.

“There is a push for diversity within these classes but it’s not enough and I don’t see it working even though Admin and Staff got a small portion of Latinx students to step up to the plate by taking them,” said Jeydi Gomez, an AVID senior. “This should be happening school wide and maybe if they did this in 9-11th grade advisories, not just our AVID class, I’m hopeful that we would see change.”

Sometimes students say they just need that extra genuine push of reassurance from someone with more power. Many students are not aware about these classes this school offers or how they can be beneficial.

AVID senior Amos Munoz said, “Before those push-ins I didn’t even know what those classes really were or even what they did, I just saw them as extra hard work, and why would you want to do that to yourself.” Therefore, without these push-ins it is questionable thatMunoz would have ever been made more aware of these classes. 

San Rafael High School is the most diverse high school in Marin County. More than half of the school population is Latinx/Hispanic with the demographics showing that our school population is made up of about 72% of non-white students. 

If students are struggling to feel welcomed or even a part of their own classes at this school, it’s likely of concern to the administration. 

“Fitting in and adjusting has been one of the most challenging things at this school because I’ve caught myself completely changing who I am and shifting character depending on who I’m around,” AVID senior Carlos Ortiz said. “Especially within these AP/HP classes I try to make myself seem smarter quite a lot.”

All of the AVID seniors interviewed could agree that when there’s a bunch of students that don’t necessarily look like them in a class it makes it very difficult to even picture themselves taking these classes and when selecting their future courses it is a common factor in the decision making.

“Another contributing factor to me not taking any AP’s up until this year is the fact that I’ve had a job since freshman year to support my family, which I feel a lot of other kids don’t have to deal with the stress of,” Melissa Gongora said. “This allows them to just focus on school  and getting good grades because they’re fortunate enough to have time, money, & resources available that a lot of us Latinx students don’t have.”

Carlos Ortiz also agreed with this. “Other students are fortunate enough to be able to take all the AP/HP classes they’re able to, unlike kids like me who have a lot going on at home,” said Carlos. “So while there’s kids trying to pay rent & provide for their own basic needs, there’s also kids fortunate enough to have access to resources like tutors and textbooks.”

All of these AVID students are in fact first-generation, being if not one of the first, the very first in their families to go to college. They’re in this program, to receive the help they need and can’t obtain at home. Other resources like this exist like 10,000 Degrees, Compass, Peer Tutoring, The CCC, Wellness Center, and much more at this school. But many students don’t even know they exist and the word may not be getting spread enough for them to be taking full advantage of these opportunities and resources.