The Untold Stories of Melrose is a series of interviews by two senior interns from Melrose High School, Freddie Kelley and Connor Locke, who have been working in my office for the past few weeks.
Doreen Ward is the METCO director for the Melrose Public Schools.
I grew up in Dorchester. When I was coming along, Dorchester was still very mixed. We lived in a three family house. There was an Asian family on the first floor, there was a Jewish family on the second floor, and a black family on the third floor. So my early days were very different. It wasn’t just black family, black relations, black neighborhood. I grew up watching everything change.
When I was a METCO student, I often heard how lucky I was to be there. It changed my outlook on things because I realized later in life, no, they were lucky to have me. There is not a time when a person of color would not have to interact with a white person in their life. However, because of the nature of this country, a white person could go their whole life and never interact with a person of color. So it gave me a new perspective on what the world is.
I have matured enough to know that what you see isn’t always the reality. When students who are here at the high school are feeling things, they are often very correct about what they’re feeling. It may not look, to an outsider, that they are correct. But nine out of ten times they are. It’s not easy being a student of color in a predominantly white environment. Unfortunately, stereotypes and low expectation plague that experience. I’ve been able to help students show their promise. When I started, there was one or two METCO students that may have taken one or two honors courses. And that has increased dramatically.
This year 60-70% of METCO students in the high school are taking one or more honors or AP courses, which is a tremendous jump. And they are being successful in those courses. The number of students that have poor grades has decreased dramatically. We’re still working on getting a valedictorian, but we’re getting there.