Harrisonburg students working to improve education for minorities

Published: Feb. 2, 2016 at 3:15 PM EST
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A group at Harrisonburg High School, the Minority Student Achievement Network, is aiming to bring more minority students into advanced classes, reflecting the school's student body.

The school's student body is about 40 percent white, according to data from the group's presentation to the city's school board.

In Advanced Placement classes, a little less than 50 percent of students are white. About 35 percent of students in AP classes are Hispanic, while Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of the total student body.

"Usually some of the minority students don't feel as if they are smart enough or there are a lot of white people in their honors, (dual enrollment), or AP classes and they don't feel as confident," said Helen Melenciano, a senior in the Minority Student Achievement Network.

The group also did a survey and found some reasons why minority students may not be in upper level classes including, a lack of confidence, a lack of participation among social groups, a lack of support from school and peers and a lack of time.

The group isn't just focusing on advanced courses, it also wants to get minority students involved in activities.

"I just wanted to be part of something because I've never been the one to join clubs," said Mayra Portillio, a junior in the group. "I'm not the one who has a whole bunch of friends and the AVID program has brought me to get to know more people and I just wanted to like help others."

The group has started a peer support program and a club at Harrisonburg High School as well.