Concord-Carlisle High School students Obiageli Ifeyinwa Akubude and Autumn Mendonca spoke at the State House last month, sharing their experiences as METCO students for METCO Advocacy Day.
Good Morning everyone. My name is Obiageli Ifeyinwa Akubude. I am a senior at Concord Carlisle High School and this is my history in METCO. At the age of five, I began METCO at Willard Elementary School. My greatest accomplishment as a METCO student has been demonstrating to white students and faculty that black excellence exists and that it is here. In doing so, I have also given other black METCO students something to strive for. That is a significant accomplishment because I have served as both a beacon of hope and a reminder of black prosperity in America and METCO has played an important role in my journey.
I am also METCO student athlete who has received numerous awards and is now #1 in the state of Massachusetts in all my individual events — but my athleticism is not the only I bring to my predominantly white academic space.
In middle school, my friend Juliette Alford and I started an after-school program called R.I.S.E, which stands for Racial, Impact, and Societal Empowerment. In this after-school program, students met twice weekly to examine racial injustices in and out of school.
The first day of this program will live with me forever. The METCO students all gathered in the mods, with two teachers supervising us, and recounted our individual stories. We cried not only for ourselves, but also for one another. We listened to each other, and for the first time, I saw METCO students come together in a way that symbolized love and empowerment for the black experience. This is something I developed, and Sanborn middle school still uses this space today.
METCO. METCO, like everything else, is an experience, and like any experience, you have the power to do with it what you want. There are opportunities in everything, and if you are like me, you will seek out the positive opportunities. I can’t help myself; I’m a hustler. METCO is a grind for me. I wake up every day like everyone else in my school, but I wake up earlier. I go to classes every day, yet I have less energy in my mind and body than my Concord and Carlisle classmates because I am a METCO STUDENT ATHLETE.
While I was preparing my speech and thinking about what it takes to be a METCO student athlete, I was thinking to myself, “why do I even do this?” “What is the purpose?” And the answer is, OPPORTUNITIES.
Slavery may have ended, but I am still here battling to close the gap in opportunity between myself and my white peers. To me, METCO is a gateway and a path to guiding and assisting black and brown children to close the Equity Gap that every child of color has. METCO is a grind, but I genuinely feel it’s purpose and position helps children in urban settings achieve their goals. Being a black child in America is a fight, but METCO says I am here to fight with you. The daily struggle for black freedom within the American economy continues even if you are a METCO student. The struggle is real. Being the black modern American slave is real. I am still in the chains and shackles of the government that has always had a red ex on the backs of people who look like me. I am still experiencing the suffrage to attain. Instead of getting whipped and tortured physically, I get beaten down by the trailing effects of the original enslavement of my ancestors. I work extra every day to not let the systemic setup of my environment, financial situation, and much more get to my mind, deteriorate my soul, and ruin my spirit. I am still fighting my ancestor’s fight and METCO fights this with me. METCO allowed me to speed up the walk to closing my disparity gap and most importantly, METCO molded me.
WHAT DOES METCO MEAN TO ME? Good morning. My name is Autumn Mendonca. I am a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School.
METCO is, by definition, a daily hour commute, to a suburban town where POC/ BIPOC, Black, brown and Hispanic, kids get a chance at better education. However for ME METCO is much more than that.
METCO pushes you to be unapologetically, and organically who you are, while being in white spaces. I believe METCO has helped me find a voice in a place I’ve felt unseen for most of my academic career. Ever since I was little I struggled with speaking up for myself, so I’ve been told I wasn’t smart enough, not important enough. I felt that my presence lacked meaning within the school community.
However, METCO has never made me feel that way. METCO has pushed me to achieve goals I thought at the time were unattainable. I never thought I could be a part of the conversation, and when METCO opened these doors for me, I ran through and never turned back.
Because of METCO, I’ve found my passion for advocacy. I want to use the privilege and the opportunities, and knowledge i’ve gained To engage in these uncomfortable topics about racism, poverty, sexuality, and defending those who cannot defend themselves.
I never want anyone to feel how I once felt. I have Pride and feel accomplished when saying “I am a METCO student.” I am a part of a movement that will help make the education system beneficial to children who look like me. There are times where I am the only representation of diversity in my classes, clubs, and school athletics. So when I had the opportunity to become a METCO Ambassador for my 12 grade class, I really pushed for administration to give METCO students the resources they need to achieve excellence, while renewing a deeper motivation to pursue higher education.
I want the younger generation in the METCO program to be given the opportunity to grow academically, and know that they are smart, important, and that their presence has meaning. METCO has helped me understand what it means to be a young black woman in America in a system that was not put in place to benefit people who look like me. The opportunities we have are limited, and we work three times harder to accomplish our goals and dreams.
We are resilient. We always persevere. METCO gives students like me the chance to show the world that black excellence is not rare. METCO is proof that black excellence is here to stay.
I am black excellence. I am METCO.