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NEW YORK CITY has two high school systems. One is for the affluent and well-connected. It promises elite opportunities for families able to sacrifice time and money to compete for them. The other primarily serves low-income students of color, concentrates them in the same schools, and offers them slim hope of college preparation. But most people here, including policymakers, have little idea what actually goes on inside this dual school system.

In the fourth season of the Miseducation podcast, New York City high school students report on how kids’ lives were thrown into disarray and how the inequality already baked into the system worsened.

Episode 1: “Suddenly, everything changed”

Isabel Gonzalez

By Isabel Gonzalez

Roughly 200,000 — 20 percent — of New York City public school students have diagnosed learning disabilities. It can be very difficult for these students to obtain adequate support and accommodations, as learning disabilities are commonly misunderstood among the general public. Throw in a global pandemic and learning becomes even more of a challenge. In this episode, you hear my older sister Luisa’s story, from her early difficulties in school, to my family’s struggle to ensure that she received proper assistance for her learning disabilities, to the moment in March when Covid-19 forced everything to change.

Episode 2: “No laptop and no internet”

Titilayo Aluko

By Titilayo Aluko

All one million of New York City’s students were thrown into online learning when schools closed back in March. But for a lot of us, adapting to Google Meet and trying to stay on a regular schedule while not being able to see friends weren’t the only challenges. I began virtual school without a laptop, or even internet access in my home. In this episode, I share my first hand experience of what it’s like to be a low-income student in a pandemic, and speak about my struggles to receive technological support from the Department of Education in the midst of working to complete my AP classes and get through junior year.

Episode 3: “Don’t even know where to find it”

Toli Begum

By Toli Begum

When school went remote last spring, it also meant that the college process went remote. This was only an added challenge for immigrant students like me who are the first in their families to apply to and attend college in the United States. I had to navigate language barriers, confusing websites, financial aid forms, and decision deadlines with only the help of my college counselor, who became harder to reach when the pandemic struck because she was understandably juggling work and home life. In this episode I share what it’s like to be an immigrant student going through the college process during a pandemic.

Episode 4: “Easier to not do the work”

Gilana Steckel

By Gilana Steckel

In Room 522C, the second smallest in the school, where twenty-five tenth graders sat knee to knee at small tables, we had the richest discussions. The class was about human rights, and the teacher, Amanda Marzan, was in her first year of teaching in New York City. On March 13, when the pandemic forced schools to close, Amanda, along with the 75,000 other public school teachers in the city, had to scramble to adapt to the new reality of remote learning. Earlier this year I talked to Amanda one on one, to understand the challenges she has faced.

Episode 5: “Being forgotten”

Da’Ja Gittens

By Da’Ja Gittens

Fearing my grandmother’s sudden departure from this world was the worst thing I could think of, but a few years ago when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I knew my greatest fear would be being forgotten. We both live in New York City, but with the pandemic going on, even taking the bus or the train to see her is impossible. In the final episode of this season, I share what these last few months have been like for us — and what no pandemic or disease could ever take away.

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