Few African-American students in AP classes

Brooke Shimasaki, Staff Writer

“It’s funny how you’re black and doing better in this class, but I’m Asian and not doing as well.”

Senior Ngozi Elobuike still remembers this racist remark made by a fellow AP Biology student last year.

At Bear Creek, Elobuike has taken on a rigorous class schedule, challenging herself by taking many honors and Advanced Placement classes. Though there is pressure that naturally comes from the coursework of an AP class, Elobuike admits that she also feels pressure due to her African American race.

“When I first enter a class, I feel like I have to prove that I’m able to take on the coursework because of my race,” Elobuike said.  “[I feel] pressure from myself to prove people wrong who think that I’m going to act a certain way because of my color or that I don’t have the same capacity as others.”

Sophomore Eurasia Williams is currently enrolled in Pre-AP English 10.

“I joined [Pre-AP English] because I wanted to prove that I’m worth something and not as stupid as most African Americans are made out to be,” Williams said.

Though she is proud to take honors and AP courses, Williams notes that she sometimes finds it difficult to ask questions during class, in fear of being looked down upon because of her race.  However, many students, regardless of race, are often hesitant to ask questions in class, citing the same fear as Williams.

“I don’t really ask questions,” Williams said.  “If I have a question, I ask my closest friends or my family for help because I feel like I won’t be judged by them.”

Williams is one of only two African American students in her English period.

Elobukie, as well, cannot help but notice that she is the only African American in her AP English and AP Calculus classes.

“In my other two AP classes, there is one other African American but, in general, there is definitely a lack of diversity,” Elobukie said.

According to the counseling office, of the 322 African Americans enrolled at Bear Creek, only 28 African Americans — 20 females and 8 males  — are in one or more AP class.  Additionally, four of the 16 AP classes have no African American enrollment, including AP Art, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics.

“I guess I never realized the imbalance [of races],” AP Physics teacher Jennifer Prins said.

“AP Physics is a very math-based course so if you don’t have strong math skills, then it can be very difficult,” Prins said.  “I don’t think that [AP Physics] is geared toward or not geared toward any one race. It’s based on math ability.”

While some students feel a profound change in the classroom setting due to their race, other African American students believe that they are viewed equally.  Nevertheless, the lack of African Americans does not go unnoticed.

Dennis To, Bear Creek’s Assistant Principal and AP coordinator, has worked with administration to create different ways to encourage all races to enroll in AP class, including advertising Advanced Placement classes during AP Preview Day.

“We do promotion of career exploration and the counselors even go to the junior high schools to talk about AP Programs,” To said.

Additionally, letters are sent home to students and their families that recommend AP classes, with the intent of influencing parents and students alike to take interest in the Advanced Placement program.

Senior Mohamed Haidara is enrolled in AP classes but he says he never feels that he is seen or treated differently because of his race.

“I think it’s kind of sad that not many African Americans are in AP classes or challenging themselves,” Haidara said.

Junior Delcie Colter has eight Pre-AP and AP classes under her belt and, though she has noted the lack of African Americans, she does not feel she is treated differently.

“It’s irritating sometimes because there should be more diversity in AP classes besides whites and Asians,” Colter said.

“As I look around, there are very few African Americans, but my teachers don’t treat me any differently,” junior Darius Livingston said.  He has taken eight Pre-AP and AP classes during his three years at Bear Creek.

Livingston says he notices that he is frequently one of the only African Americans in his AP courses, but he does not let that fact change how he acts or how hard he works in the class.

“Everybody, despite their race, has an equal opportunity to do their best academically,” Livingston said.  “It just depends on how far you are willing to push yourself in order to achieve success.”