This 23-year-old founded an organization to help fight inequality in the American school system. here’s how

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Credit: Teylor Parks

Even in elementary school, Teylor Parks knew the education system was filled with inequities.

At the age of eight, she was asked to attend her elementary school’s gifted program, also called Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), and immediately noticed the difference in treatment.

“I think sometimes the way the gifted program works is a bit flawed in nature – testing the child at age five or six, and not necessarily continuing to test other children so they can be considered for advanced learning opportunities just doesn’t feel balanced to me,” Parks shared with Essence. “I also think there shouldn’t be systems in place that segregate kids in this way, without really investing to bridge the gaps in education that prevent some children from progressing as they should. I think it is important that children who show a certain academic rigor receive special attention, but that does not mean that they neglect other students.

This special treatment that she mentioned usually starts in first grade and has a huge impact on how a child grows into adulthood. Designed to provide students with deeper and more nuanced lessons, research has shown that the creative and intellectual interests nurtured first in gifted programs often remain intact into adulthood. The Education Corner reports that there appears to be a link between students who obtain gifted education services and post-graduate academic success. Several longitudinal studies have demonstrated that children identified as gifted from kindergarten to grade 12 progress to higher levels of higher education, including a significantly higher percentage of doctoral degrees.

Parks knew firsthand how these differences in treatment from elementary school manifested into adulthood and decided to do something about it.

While an undergrad at Florida A&M University, she started Dreamers at the FAMU Youth Volunteer Organization where she offered resources to Florida-area K-12 students interested in STEAM activities. (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).

For her, it was truly a labor of love.

“We received occasional funding from outside sources, but most of the time it was funded out of my own pocket, through hustle and bustle that I took on,” she said, adding to a full workload as a student.

His compassion paid off. The organization has served more than 300 students and this year officially expanded its efforts to launch Achieve in Color, an educational foundation offering micro-grants for school and community projects serving youth of color.

“The work we’ve done with Dreamers has encouraged black and brown students to strive for excellence and follow their aspirations,” Parks said in a statement. “Achieve in Color will support other leaders who want to do the same for young people in their community.”

Today, Parks aims to help children across the country. This year, she said she was crowdfunding for Achieve in Color and accepting applications for the first round of micro-grants. “I just want to make sure everyone has a fair chance.”

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