In eighth grade, Queen Nwafor knew she wanted the best education possible. Her older sister attended an independent high school, thanks to a program that helped students from low-income, urban communities get into private schools. And while Queen wanted the same, she didn’t have the same help getting there.
But through hard work, she was able to attend a parochial high school, and while there, realized how different her education had been up to that point.
“I knew myself to be intelligent. I knew myself to be hardworking, and I felt that I had mastered the material that I needed to master for my grade level. But when I tested into the honors classes at the Catholic school, I was still behind many of my peers who were closest to me because of where I was coming from and where they were coming from.”
This experience fueled Queen’s desire to create educational equity. And while she’s still feeling out exactly what she wants her role to be in the fight for educational equity, she is taking opportunities to learn more about the different ways you can have impact.
“With LEE, I was able to participate in the Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship. I completed an organizing fellowship. Organizing was a foreign concept to me in terms of understanding the skills and techniques that go behind it.”
During her time in the PASF, Queen started her own grassroots organization called Baltimore Rising.
“We are working with various leaders around Baltimore City, training them in advocacy, policy, and organizing, and crafting ways to increase voter turnout.”
A part of this work includes a leadership summit for high school students where the youth will learn about creating a story, voting, and understanding education budgets.
“Having these conversations, especially with students, is important so that they are informed as they transition and matriculate out of high school. These are topics that are not discussed in your standard content classes. You have to know that the inequity exists before you can name it. So we’re creating space for students to understand these topics and to be able to name it so that they can be change agents in their own communities.”
For Queen, it’s about giving students the skills to make a difference so that one day, everyone will have the same opportunities.
“In a perfect world, no one will have to look out of their communities to find quality education. There won’t be another eighth-grade student saying ‘I can’t go to my local high school. I need to brainstorm alternatives to make myself successful.’”