There is something to be said about a school district such as Nogales Unified, where 99 percent of the students are Hispanic or another minority.
The facts that time and again our students win state and even national recognition, have a graduation rate far higher than the state average, and go on to become college- and career-ready in record numbers, most especially when compared with other districts with high minority populations, are based solely on their own merits. There is no throwback to affirmative action at NUSD.
The Tucson Unified School District is not nearly as lucky. A recently published article stated that TUSD wants to give minority students “motivation” points when they test for going into University High School because they are underrepresented on the honors campus. If they score below the entry-level requirement, they can still get in if they can demonstrate they are motivated to attend.
Not so at Nogales High School. NHS is unique in that it has both an International Baccalaureate and an Advanced Placement program, as well as honors classes. The participation in these programs mirrors the ethnicity rate of the school as a whole. That’s right. The IB candidates, as well as the students in the AP and honors classes, are minorities. And no one gave them motivation points to join.
Last year, six of the 10 schools in the district received Reward status as outstanding Title 1 schools. Wade Carpenter Middle School was selected as the top Title 1 site in the state, and Welty, Coronado and Bracker were in the running. And guess what? At least 99 percent of the students in these schools are Hispanic, many speak English as their second language, and the majority have parents who have little education themselves. The district as a whole has a free- and reduced-price meal designation of more than 82 percent, so not only are they minority students, but they qualify as being economically deprived.
No one gives them points for motivation. They either earn their achievement or they don’t. No one at the state level says: “Poor, poor Nogales. It has all these minority, poor, deprived students, so let’s not hold them to the same standards. Let’s allow them to score below Scottsdale or Catalina Foothills, but give them extra credit for being who they are.”
Look at our minority athletes. The Rio Rico Little League team was stuffed with NUSD students, and these little Hispanics swamped the World Series. Our Hispanic-dominated basketball and football teams have taken state championships. Our mariachi students — led for years by a very talented Anglo girl — prove that ethnicity is not the deciding factor when it comes to musical talent. In this reverse-discrimination scenario, no one gave her motivation points to join a group that was not dominated by students of her ethnicity.
I have the privilege of writing the narratives for the 11 newest inductees into the Nogales High School Hall of Fame. Ten out of 11 are Hispanics, and most came from very humble households. Their accomplishments range from serving the community as fire chief, mayor and assistant police chief to major leaderships in education, public service and medicine. Every single one of them has made commitments to social and service organizations.
Can you imagine if these individuals were denigrated because it could have been assumed that they got where they are now because they got motivation points years ago before they even graduated from NHS?
Yes, we in Nogales are very fortunate. When someone here accomplishes something, it is because of his or her own strengths and not because years ago someone bestowed credit for their motivation. And that is how it should be.