KHS hosts African American Achievement Awards

March 9, 2015


Maggie Kiley

104 students received the African-American Achievement Award during a ceremony held in the Keating Theater during homeroom Feb. 11. The award is given to any black student with a 3.0 or higher GPA. The ceremony also recognizes the top three black students in each grade. Each student received their award and listened to guest speakers.

According to Romona Miller, assistant principal, the African-American Achievement Award was first created due to a significant gap in achievement between black and white students, particularly noticeable in awards like the Lamp of Learning (awarded to any student with a 3.0 or higher GPA) and High Honor Roll (3.5 GPA or higher). For example, the Lamp of Learning usually recognizes around 900 white students, with 20 black students. Fewer black students receive the Gold K award, with usually one or two per year, Miller said.

“It was very obvious that the black kids weren’t excelling like the white students were,” Miller said. “We needed to try to close that gap, because we obviously weren’t being recognized there.”

When the Black Academic Achievement Club wanted to find a way to celebrate Black History Month, they combined causes and began the African-American Achievement Award. Miller said the purpose of the award is to recognize the black students that are excelling and to help students see other black students perform well academically.

“It’s very important that kids of color see other kids of color doing well [academically] because they don’t see that,” Miller said. “They see it in sports, they see it in music, they see it in other things, but they don’t see it academically.”

Tiffany Jordan, sophomore, agrees with Miller. She said she is usually one of the only black students in her honors and AP classes. She said the African-American Achievement Awards are important because they encourage success in minority students. However, she said the award makes her feel awkward because her friends are white and they do not understand the award.

“I guess it’s just because they don’t really have a part in it, and sometimes they’re just like ‘Why don’t they have an achievement award for us?’” Jordan, sophomore, said. “Sometimes they think the GPA is too low to be recognized too.”

Although none of her white friends discuss the award with her, she feels uncomfortable talking about the subject with them at times. She also said the GPA for the award is somewhat low. Other than these problems, she said she appreciates the award overall.

“It’s planting the seed that we can do well. We are not just athletes, we are not just musicians, we are not just singers. We do well academically.””

— Romona Miller

Madison Shead, junior, has mixed feelings about the award. She likes that KHS honors African-American academics, but she doesn’t think the GPA requirement is high enough. She also thinks KHS could do a better job of informing the student body on what the award means.

“It’s just kind of annoying getting asked over and over again ‘How come the black kids get an award but the white kids don’t?’” Shead said. “The other kids who aren’t minorities don’t really see the positives in it.”

Regardless, the award has served its purpose so far. According to Miller, the amount of students receiving the award increases every year. Additionally, the number of black students receiving the Gold K award has increased from three in years past to 12 in 2014.

“It’s planting the seed that we can do well,” Miller said. “We are not just athletes, we are not just musicians, we are not just singers. We do well academically.”

Miller hopes this encouragement will lead more black students to improve their academic performance. She said the next step is increasing the amount of black students enrolled in AP and honors classes.

Miller thinks many black students shy away from taking high level courses because they fear they will be the only black student in class. She said KHS will continue to move forward, but it is a very long process and there is a lot of progress left to be made.

“We have to find a way to close that gap, and little things like this can help with that,” Miller said. “It’s not the only thing we can do, but it’s a good addition.”

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