Black at Andover: A Personal Perspective

I remember when I was applying to Andover last year, not knowing what to expect from such a prestigious school in such a faraway place. There seemed to be a door blocking me from seeing what it was really like, and it felt like getting admitted was the only way to open this door. Since I didn’t feel like waiting for months, I began searching online for answers, and was met with posts from Andover Admissions’ Instagram and YouTube videos capturing boarding school “day in my life” videos. These sources painted a utopia-like image of Andover. Although some aspects of the school are different from what those websites had claimed, my Black experience at Andover has actually been, for the most part, valuable and enjoyable.

Once March 10 rolled around, I couldn’t really differentiate the main schools I was considering all that well — they were all places full of intelligent students, unmatched academics, endless resources, and opportunities that couldn’t be found at the vast majority of high schools worldwide. But because I had to choose, I began to scrutinize some details that are often overlooked. One of these details was who the people in positions of power at the school were. For example, Andover has a Black and gay Head of School, neither of which could be found at the majority of other schools that are often associated with Andover. This fact demonstrates just how much Andover is committed to making the school a safe and welcoming environment for all students. There is also a multitude of affinity groups catered to a wide demographic of groups as well as a diverse Board of Trustees, demonstrating Andover’s commitment to inclusivity. These other factors drove me to finally say yes to Andover on April 9, one day before the decision deadline. As affirmed by my revisit experience, I was completely sure that I was about to experience a life-changing experience in an inclusive environment.

Or not. I discovered the @blackatandover Instagram page over the summer and couldn’t believe some of the posts I read. I was aware of Andover’s history but had just assumed that prejudice surrounding Black people had just faded away as Andover transitioned into becoming a more modern school. Scrolling through the countless posts, I realized I could not have been any more wrong, and the romanticized image of Andover that had been set in my mind for so many months quickly disappeared. As I read the experiences of other Black students at the school I would be attending in just a few months, the certainty I had for what my Andover experience gradually transformed into ambiguity and worry. But all I could do was wait.

Since arriving on campus, I’ve actually found myself pleasantly surprised. Despite the issues that were highlighted by the @blackatandover Instagram page, such as frequent microaggressions against Black students by other students and faculty alike, I still feel that Andover has done an excellent job accommodating and supporting Black students such as myself. One thing the school could improve on is diversifying faculty, which supports the success of students from marginalized groups that have traditionally been underrepresented at the school. But aside from that, I have no problems. At my old school, I was one of a handful of Black students in my grade, and we had virtually zero resources to support us and make us feel included. Andover is an immense upgrade from what I was previously surrounded with, and I feel like the school has provided me with people I can talk to, groups I can join, and events I can go to in order to feel included.

I remember arriving at Andover in September, not knowing what to expect for the next four years of my life. Since school started, I’ve been exposed to and have utilized the number of resources that Black students have on campus, such as spaces like the CAMD (Community and Multicultural Development) office and affinity groups, such as Black Student Union and Af-Lat-Am (Afro-Latino-American Society). These are so helpful because they allow Black students as well as other minorities a safe space to socialize with each other as well as freely discuss issues they’re dealing with. There have also been lots of opportunities to hear about Black experiences, such as the ASM speaker Mitchell S. Jackson talking about the lives and experiences of prominent Black male figures. The posts I saw on Instagram still linger in the back of my mind, making me wonder when I will relate to them––but for now, I have only good experiences to recount and gratitude to express for the school’s myriad efforts.