2017 Senior Challenge Academy: Week 3

Over the last 10 years, our students have written about topics ranging from local issues, such as living in a food desert and bullying at school, to national issues, like police brutality and gender inequality. A decade of essays shows the depth of interest in these themes, proving that while our students may be young, they have important perspectives. Our six-week Senior Challenge Academy gives students the opportunity to strengthen the essays they have written in class, building out a 90-second argumentative presentation that compiles their claim, evidence, and personal connection to the college and career issue they chose. These public and public charter school seniors from across the District will share their research-based presentations on stage, competing for nearly $15,000 in scholarship funds. The relevance of their arguments holds weight in today’s political climate.

This week, we are highlighting two students who have chosen topics that are deeply personal, representing two different perspectives. Jason Reyes, a senior at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, is a first-generation American, whose parents immigrated to the United States from El Salvador, seeking to create a better life for their family. Wilson De Leon, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, emigrated from Guatemala, after his parents had come to the U.S. three years earlier. Both students have selected topics related to college and career issues in which their individual life experiences have shaped their arguments in unique ways.

Despite still being in high school, Jason knows he wants to be a small business owner. He is interested in starting a consulting company focused on creative design, working with video game developers and architecture firms. He wants to eventually build  a staff and is concerned about the red tape surrounding business regulation. Jason’s claim is that American legislators should cut taxes and regulations that hurt small business owners, specifically implementing President Trump's proposal of removing two existing regulations for every new regulation. As a supporter of the current administration, he wanted to write an argumentative essay that could prove a point around small business regulation, but also show that Trump is a good businessman. In his research, Jason found that current business regulations tend to favor larger businesses, without considering small business owners, who are often hurt by new laws like the Affordable Care Act, which can make it difficult to hire new employees, grow the business, and advertise. His claim supports a more inclusive approach to policy that considers small businesses equally.

Like Jason, Wilson De Leon is of Latin American heritage, and his parents came to this country in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Wilson was born in Guatemala and lived with his grandparents for three years, while his parents saved money to bring him to the United States. His claim counteracts the stereotype that illegal immigrants take advantage of the system, instead asserting that immigrants actually contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy. This is a personal topic for him, as someone who remembers coming here as a small child, following the promise of a better education and more possibilities for his future. He is passionate about telling the full story of undocumented immigrants, specifically citing research around the value they bring to this country. Under the current rhetoric of the Trump administration, Wilson has seen life become more difficult for undocumented immigrants, as deportations become more prevalent and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents become more visible in downtown DC. Despite this, Wilson considers himself American because he has lived here for most of his life. He is proud of where he came from, and continues to see his future in this country. Wilson wants to go to college for mechanical engineering and is interested in sustainability in the automotive industry. His dream job would be to work for Tesla, which happens to be an immigrant-owned company.

As an organization founded on the premise that engagement is integral to academic success, we are thrilled to work with students who have such important perspectives on current events. We hope you will join us on Wednesday, April 12 at the historic Howard Theatre for the 2017 College & Career Senior Challenge to hear from Jason and Wilson, as well as the rest of the students who are participating in the Senior Challenge Academy.

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