On July 13th, 2021, Andrew Yawn published an article on the experience of students at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who enrolled in Poetry In America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop last Fall via Arizona State University.
Yawn talked with Professor Elisa New about the work that she is doing, in collaboration with the National Education Equity Lab and ASU, to provide opportunities for high school students regardless of GPA and test scores. New said: “What makes me happiest about my collaboration with the National Education Equity Lab is that they’re operationalizing opportunity. And not many people have figured out how to do that.”
The Poetry in America for High Schools program has been highly successful across the country: since 2019, more than 800 students across 76 participating high schools have earned college credit through the course.
It has also been a success in Baton Rouge. Sammar Parham, a McKinley student in the Poetry in America course, was surprised how much she enjoyed learning about poetry. Her experience taught Sammar that “college is a lot more doable than it’s made out to be in high school.” Chelsea Schilling, the local coordinator for the course at McKinley High School, also found that the course helps give students the confidence to pursue post-secondary education. “These are classes that we just don’t have the funding to have our own teachers teaching, that we now have the opportunity to offer our kids,” she said. “This is one of the best things to ever happen to McKinley.”