16 Mar 2018

Grads Share Experiences With Students For Black History Month Project – Part One

In early February, CHS student ministers serving on the diversity committee reached out to minority alumni and invited them to be part of a Black History Month project. These graduates agreed to participate in an email exchange, answering questions about their experiences at CHS with the hope that we could use what we learn to improve current student experiences.

The student ministers asked alumni to share memories about their activities and involvement at CHS, best experiences, greatest challenges, biggest adjustments and what helped them to be successful. The survey concluded with questions about how and when they encountered racism and racial insensitivity and how they would like to see CHS change in the future.

CHS senior and student minister Drake Brignac, expressed the group’s goal and motivation behind undertaking such an important and revealing project. “It is our deep desire that we, as students, can identify issues that have faced minority graduates in the past and address them today to promote diversity and acceptance for ourselves and our posterity.”

This project follows other school-wide efforts this year to address the challenges faced by minority students at CHS. Our big read – Under Our Skin, faculty formation opportunities including attending the People of Color Conference and a special visit from Dr. James Cook ‘68, have helped facilitate ongoing conversations regarding race and diversity on our campus and in our community.

CHS Principal Lisa Harvey expressed her appreciation to the student ministers and alumni who took part in this project. “I am grateful to our current students and alumni who participated in these conversations. I am particularly thankful that Campus Ministry and our student ministers have pursued this dialogue, and I look forward to future conversations that will allow our school to become a better sanctuary for all who enter here.”

We are very grateful for the honesty, thoughtfulness and candor of the following alumni who provided responses to our questions:

Terry Gray ’96, Gary Johnson ’04, Byron Washington ’06, Thomas Broussard ’07, Nicholas Fisher ’07, Henry Minor ’07, Jason Peters ’07, Alex Hurst ’08, Lonnie Lockett ’09, Marcus Thomas ’09, Brian Tucker ’12, Clarence Ellis ’13, Tyler Sparrow ’13, Todd Sterling ’15, LaMonth Williams ’15.

Over the next several weeks, we will post responses from the survey. Each week’s post will focus on a different question from the survey. This post will focus on the question:

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a student at Catholic High School? 

  • Coming from a predominantly black middle school to a predominantly white all-boys high school was an adjustment. But I found brothers and mentors from all different backgrounds and to this day, I can say God placed me here for reason and I am thankful that he did. (Sparrow) 
  • My biggest adjustment came socially. My graduating class had eight African American boys in the class. Of the 800 or so boys in the school, maybe 50-60 were black. Very tough to adjust when none of the social events took into consideration your preferences. Sometimes, I felt invisible. (Gray) 
  • Trying to figure out what I wanted to do after I did not make the basketball team freshman and sophomore year. Basketball was one of the biggest reasons why I came to Catholic and not being able to fulfill that dream, I found myself questioning if I really wanted to be here. (Sterling) 
  • It’s hard to get a white adult to imagine being a black kid in a majority white school and view things from  his eyes. (Broussard) 
  • I went from a large number of white people already used to black people (because Sacred Heart is a true melting pot of races) to a larger number of white people with some of them never even being in school with any black people before. It was weird and uncomfortable at times because you could tell they felt weird and didn’t know what was appropriate to say. (Ellis)
  • Finding “my place” among my new friends and teammates. Because I was new to all of my classmates, I felt a pressure to cling to a certain group. During my freshman year the majority of the students were grouped based on where they went to school the previous year, but the “cliques” shifted throughout the following years. (Hurst) 
  • Meeting new people was probably the hardest thing. I remember I was an awkward kid and I wasn’t comfortable reaching out to people. It was hard to connect with so many kids that I didn’t know. (Peters) 
  • NO GIRLS!!! LOL… Really that has to be at the top of my list. Another would be the learning environment. I came from the public school system. The curriculum was not as challenging as the one at CHS. At CHS my teachers did more than teach a lesson; they made sure you understood all aspects of how and why things were done a certain way. (Minor) 
  • The largest adjustment for me was dealing with fewer black people in school and class. The largest obstacle I faced was showing people I wasn’t here for sports. (Washington) 
  • Going from all African American classes and teachers to being the only black student in class most times. (Lockett) 
  • I had never had a teacher who was not African American before attending Catholic High. I had never gone to school with a student who was not African American. I had never played on the same team with anyone who was not African American. I had never had a friend who was not African American. (Thomas)

Next week’s post will focus on the question: What were some of the racial challenges you faced as a student at Catholic High School?