Nonprofit working with Winston-Salem majority-minority school to make sure students have opportunities to pursue their passions

In Black and White

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The demographics of some school districts are changing. Some schools have become majority-minority. A nonprofit group is working with one such school in Winston-Salem to make sure those students have access to opportunities to pursue their passions.

“We have a lot of students who are looking for opportunities to get involved, looking for opportunities to get involved with something bigger than themselves, to explore interests, to be able to get the support they need for their academic pursuits and a lot of times the funding is not there,” says Parkland High School Principal Spencer Hardy.

Hardy hopes a new program will address some of those challenges.

“I’m so excited we’ve achieved a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant for our program here called P.U.S.H. 21,” said Wilton Mitchell. “It will serve the students here at Parkland Magnet High School in Winston-Salem. And we’re going to offer mathematical tutoring, English tutoring, enrichment opportunities: animation, musical production.”

Mitchell teaches chorus at Parkland. He also runs the nonprofit, Achieve Arts Academy. They received a $277,000 federal grant to work with 75 Parkland students and their families through P.U.S.H. 21. It stands for “Pushing Unbelievable Students Higher.”

“We have workshops for parents. We’re partnered with the State Employees’ Credit Union. We’ll be offering financial literacy courses for our parents and our students teaching them how to manage their money,” Mitchell said.

P.U.S.H. 21 is as much for the parents as the students.

“We have a partnership with Ace of Spades LLC here in Winston-Salem. She will act as the hub that will help offer these resources to our parents. They have various trade courses. ESL courses, re-entry courses for people who have family members who are incarcerated and help them get acclimated back to the environment.”

“In P.U.S.H. 21, I’m helping out by translating to the kids who don’t speak English, and helping out even the kids that do speak English…helping them out to motivate them every day,” said Andrew Betancourt.

Betancourt works at Parkland and is the translator for P.U.S.H. 21. He says there’s a growing need for resources for people whose first language is not English.

“There are a lot of students that come in here and don’t quite understand the English language,” he explained.

“40-some-odd percent of our population is Hispanic. And a lot of those students have parents at home who don’t speak English. So they are bilingual, which I think is a skill in itself. But again, that skill has to be nourished and developed,” added Hardy.

That’s where P.U.S.H. 21 comes in. The overwhelming majority of Parkland’s students are Black and Hispanic, and low-income.

“A lot of times people don’t realize what minority students have to offer. They get overlooked a lot of times,” Hardy said.

“I believe this program is going to bring hope to our young people by accessing their potential, by accessing their talents, their passions,” said Mitchell. “We have a lot of talented singers, writers, producers in the making. We have medical professionals. We have people who have so many passions at our school and we want to offer the opportunities to tap into those passions, and get them excited about who they are.”

P.U.S.H. 21 started last month but they’re still taking applications. For more information about the program or how you can get involved, click here.

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