I have been on both sides of the achievement gap. Compared to my peers in middle and high school in the Bronx, I was exceptional and among those who may have just beaten the odds.

In college, I was black, a statistic, unprepared for the rigorous classes and a barely above average student who struggled to stay in school. So far, my experiences in education have made me an increasingly more passionate advocate, but have also made me so frustrated that I can understand the bliss in ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that I believed that my inability to succeed was simply a product of what I am innately made of. But that’s not the case. I am aware that there is more to it.

Early on in high school I became cognizant of this dilemma and asked one of my teachers when it had become uncool to be smart. She still reminds me of that question every time she sees me. I don’t remember every detail of her answer, but it was basically that she was not sure. I see now that it was never uncool to be smart.

It was uncool how difficult it was to be smart. The frustration that I have more recently felt toward education was the frustration that, I believe, had broken many of my demographic. The lack of learning resources such as effective teachers, test prep materials, and time made access to knowledge seem unreachable.

In the 2017 Teacher Educator Survey, a teacher commented that time is the biggest hurdle to effective teaching. The survey also reported that 58 percent of teachers feel “pulled in many different directions in terms of what to teach and how to teach it.” The problem was that we were college bound, but there were hurdles to our readiness. The 2016 Teacher’s Educator Survey summed it best by stating that “the gap between the perceived culture of postsecondary readiness and actual outcomes is significant.”

My unpreparedness for college made it difficult to initially succeed at Vanderbilt. The desire and the work ethic were there, but for a while, I simply could not keep up. I often wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew and if college was not for me after all. For someone who has always found solace in the workings of his mind, it was disheartening to be at such a point. I can say for a fact that such frustrations have prevented many from finishing high school or staying in college.

SCORE’s pillar on “Empowering People” and the third achievement goal that “every Tennessee student graduates from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce” runs parallel to this issue. Part of the main reason SCORE is important to me is because of how clearly they see that the problem is beyond fixing just one issue.

SCORE advocates for practices that directly and indirectly affect the success and attainment of students in Tennessee. Equally prioritizing the direct and indirect determinants of achievement such as health, contributes to that complete preparedness that allows for sustainable academic and eventual career success. SCORE recognizes and achieves this through exceptional work in collaborative policy advocacy.

As a student who painfully knows the importance of college readiness, I truly appreciate the holistic nature of SCORE’s mission and goals. A focus on college readiness, as SCORE advocates, allows for success before, during, and after college. With that, I believe that the difficulty in achievement should not be in access to necessary resources or support. It should be in the diversity of challenges that students undertake to facilitate their unabridged growth as scholars and individuals.