You Can Do It

Here at Andover, you get what you work for. At the end of last term, Nicole Okai ’10 and Ijeoma Ejiogu ’11 wrote an article regarding the lack of black and Latino students in this year’s Cum Laude Society. They implied that these groups of the student body experience significant roadblocks to reaching Cum Laude. In their article, they listed obstacles such as discrepancies in pre-Andover schooling and other pursuits like community service. However, we would like to reassure the students of Phillips Academy that induction into Cum Laude Society is in fact an attainable goal for any Senior. Ejiogu and Okai mentioned that “[Cum Laude] selection criteria favors certain students while neglecting to take into account other important factors of achievement.” It is certainly true that Cum Laude favors certain students—those who are willing to work hard for good grades. But it does not neglect other factors. The society’s sole purpose is to honor students with the highest grade point averages. It does just that without fault. Ejiogu and Okai write that PA has a partial method of judging student achievements because it does not factor in and compare courses. In fact, such a method would be the epitome of partiality (towards more advanced students). The current judgement facilitates the possibility for any Senior to make Cum Laude Society. The fact that the Cum Laude Seniors have consistently done so well in their courses implies that they deserve the honor. In addition, Ejiogu and Okai cite socioeconomic differences and lack of academic privilege which contribute to under-representation of blacks and Latinos in Cum Laude. This is certainly possible, but after years at Andover where we all share the same resources, from study halls to the academic resource center, students should be able to do well in whatever classes they take. Students’ classes should suit their level of study, and it is definitely not true that Andover students “may not have learned basic tools for success.” They would not still be here if they hadn’t. In addition, participating in activities such as community service does not prevent a student from being able to make Cum Laude if he or she so desires. We are all very busy at Andover, but many students’ experiences show that it is possible to get excellent grades while enriching the lives of others and our own. Finally, Ejiogu and Okai argue that Andover’s minority students are “prone to feel the pressure” and “feel like they must do better and always be on top” at our white-majority school. The idea that stereotype leads to a lack of black and Latino representation in Cum Laude Society makes little sense. Difficult as it may be to be black or Latino in America, race and ethnicity do not factor in to daily homework assignments and tests. Could it be that the Class of 2009’s black and Latino students just did not have the fierce drive necessary to make Cum Laude Society this time around? Ejiogu and Okai conclude their article with the following thoughts: “As students of Phillips Academy, we come from all walks of life to grow and develop into greater thinkers and human beings.” They are completely right. The students who worked hard enough to make Cum Laude Society did not settle for mediocrity during their difficult terms at PA. Similarly, we should not use our identities as excuses. Andover is the common opportunity which allows us all to reach our full potential. Kevin and Kyle Ofori are four-year Seniors from Wooster, Ohio.