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The Legacy
Blake Student Reflects on Blake/Henry Exchange for May 2nd


A Blake Student Reflects on the Blake High School-Patrick Henry High School Exchange



Read original Star Tribune article on The Blake School Patrick Henry Exchange Program



            “How do you at Patrick Henry keep from being buried in resentment?” Dion Crushshon asked the Patrick Henry students in our post-exchange discussion. One student, Husna, replied that she acknowledges that there are people better off than her and her family, but they make jokes to avoid becoming overwhelmed with jealousy. Instead of being consumed with resent, she says, “We see what else is out there and it makes us work harder. It gives us motivation.” In the calm atmosphere of the classroom, surrounded by our new Patrick Henry friends, I felt the pressure of possible tears behind my eyes from the impact her words had on me. Husna does not dwell on what she does not have, but uses what she could have to fuel her motivation. This is a simple statement, but embodies without profound philosophical nuance. But, this time, Husna’s reply sunk in and continues to provoke thought several days later as I write this reflection. I know how to work for what I want; I have done it all of my life in a myriad of manners. There was something more to it, something closer to home.

            The Patrick Henry exchange cleared both a window and a mirror that reminded me of what could have been, what is now and what I want for the future. My upbringing has exposed me to a wide spectrum of lifestyles. When I was young, I studied next to my predominantly upper class Blake friends during the day and played sports and hung out with my lower and middle class Minneapolis friends in the afternoon and evening. At the time, we were all the same. In neither situation did I feel a wealth disparity; we were just kids playing tag at recess and kicking around a soccer ball at Lynnhurst Park. Shortly before high school, my connections with the neighborhood kids distanced dramatically as all of my extracurricular activities became school-based and I spent almost 100% of my time with my wealthy, private school friends. I lost touch with much of the spectrum I once knew, losing a crucial perspective on the world.

            The Patrick Henry exchange let me peer through the window to many of those neighborhood friends I left behind. When I saw the students at Patrick Henry, I indirectly saw the current realities of my old friends. Witnessing the intellectual curiosity and the students’ resilience through hardship inspired me, but filled me with sadness knowing that they have to work twice as hard as a privileged student like myself has to achieve the same level of success. It did not matter that I did not know many of the Patrick Henry kids; what mattered was that I used to be close friends with kids like these, kids that have half of the opportunities I do yet are equally deserving. I did not feel pity or remorse, but a fire ignited inside me that thirsts to achieve social equality.

When I distanced myself at the end of middle school from my past friends who reflected the Patrick Henry students, I missed the crucial years when our lives divided into very distinct paths separated by the disparity in economic opportunities. This window into the lives of my old friends via the Patrick Henry students ignited a fire that molded a mirror that reflects my life in terms of how I want to continue living it. The mirror did not cause me to realize my privilege—I have long acknowledged it—but the mirror deepened my belief that I should use my current privilege to continue my education and then bestow this privilege onto others so that they can experience the increased access to opportunities. I do not want to be another corporate sellout or self-absorbed bureaucrat. There is too much inequity in the world to spend precious hours working for personal gain, for the gain of one person out of the seven billion on this planet. Complete inequality cannot be exterminated, but one can fight for justice. Though the vast possibilities motivates Husna, as well as my childhood friends, they should not have to work several times harder than me to cover the same ground. That kind of world is not one in which I want people to grow up. Both the mirror and the window allow me to see one thing: we need social change.