Why We Quit

The year was 2011 and I had just graduated from high school. I wanted to be prepared for my fall semester of freshman year, so I signed up for summer school. One day a woman by the name of Rebeca Mason walked into one of my classes last summer and introduced the class to the First Year Experience program (FYE). The FYE program is designed to help students be successful in their first year of college by providing a supportive, caring environment of educational and career services.

The 2011 program began with 100 students, but as the year went on, the program participation dwindled, leaving only 35 students to finish the program. All 100 of us had the chance to successfully complete the FYE program; yet only 35% did. Only 25 of the FYE students were African Americans to begin with! Attending the culmination ceremony for FYE, I only saw about four African Americans out of the 35 that completed the program, which is about 11%.

At the program culmination ceremony, all I could do was stare at the empty seats around me and wonder where those students were who once filled them. How do people start off strong and then just stop?  Circumstances? Lack of motivation? Peers? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why. They just quit.

It is disappointing, how African Americans have the highest drop out rate, which is the result in not earning a college degree. According to the website, blackdemographics.com, the average number of African Americans that have at least a bachelor’s degree increased one percent in a decade. This however is still ten percentage points lower than the national average.  As a college student, I am adamant about finishing school and encouraging others to do the same. In these hard economic times, we should take advantage of opportunities such as the community colleges that give us a chance to be competitive and competent in the work-place and save money as college students. While one part of me is still confused about why African Americans quit school, the other part of me already has a clue.

When the FYE program offered priority tutoring and assigned cohort tutors for each community, there were no African Americans who showed up to receive any assistance throughout the entire school year. Academic help aside, I also witnessed different students of color who made facetious comments about joining the FYE club, designed for FYE students to be more involved in the school and the events the club held as a commitment to the bonding of all FYE cohorts. Even with all the assistance the FYE program gave to us, why do we quit school? Pride. We don’t know how to ask for help. We always want to be seem cool and knowledgeable.

But that’s what college is for! College is about learning about the world and discovering your purpose within it. The uncertainties we have during our college journey are not to be answered alone. But until African Americans understand this, we will continue to miss out on the great opportunities and support within our reach to help us succeed and instead, just quit.

Shelby White is a new intern for Black Is and is on her way to becoming a successful journalist. Check back in for more articles penned by her!