By Jo’Visha McGee, 14, Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter HS
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New books, like this one for her science class, are one of the things Jo'Visha likes about Lou Dantzler Prep.

I like my school. It’s strict, but the classes are small, we have new books with no marks or scribbles—just our names written inside the front covers, and the students listen to the teachers and do their homework.

Things at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter High School are better than at my old school, Audubon Middle School. The desks at Audubon had gum under them, some students wore jeans some days even though the dress code said gray pants, and we didn’t have enough books. Sometimes I felt like the school didn’t care about the students. So the students didn’t care much about the school.

Once I asked someone who dropped food on the floor, “Why are you being so lazy?” The trash can was right next to her. She said, “I don’t feel like picking it back up.” I was angry with her. She didn’t have to add more trash to the ground.

That would never happen at Dantzler because if you drop something the teachers would see and tell you to pick it up. But also, the students care more about the school, because they feel like the teachers care more about them. Sometimes during lunch the teachers find the students who need extra help with their school work and bring them to the classroom to work with them.

The fights at my old school were distracting

I liked Audubon. I had some good friends and teachers, but I wished that it had been smaller. There were too many kids, often 30-40 in a class, and it seemed like there were fights almost every day and that made it hard to learn. At the beginning of eighth grade they told us not to fight or we’d get suspended. But students didn’t really care about getting suspended and fought anyway. All those fights say that a school isn’t good.

With so many students, the school didn’t have enough books. In our math class we had to share with the person sitting next to us. And the books were old with some pages that were folded or torn. People had written all through the books—curse words and gang names. When we showed the teachers they told us to get another book. But they didn’t have any more books.

Also, I didn’t really feel like I was learning that much. Students would talk on cell phones and throw stuff in class. Even I talked in class because everyone else did. In math, my grades went from Bs and Cs to Ds and Us, because I didn’t do some assignments. My teacher called my mom and my mom was mad. I started doing my assignments and was able to get my final grade up to a C so I could pass eighth grade.

When it came time for high school, I thought that I would be going to Crenshaw High School. But in the summer my mom told me that the Lou Dantzler Challengers Boys and Girls Club was opening a new charter school (Lou Dantzler Prep) and she asked me if I wanted to go. I didn’t know. I had wanted to go to Crenshaw because my friends were going there. But I knew Dantzler would be a lot smaller than Crenshaw. I like the Boys and Girls Club, so I figured that I’d like the school. I decided to go to Dantzler.

There are about 200 students at Dantzler, in sixth and ninth grades (because it’s the school’s first year). The rules are strict: no chewing gum in class, no cell phones and they enforce the dress code. You have to wear gray pants, black shoes, a white collared shirt that has to be tucked in, a tie, a navy blue blazer and a belt. On Fridays we wear a polo shirt, but only on Fridays. I like that I’ve learned how to tie a tie.

If someone violates the dress code the punishment is strict. The first time you get a referral to go to the office and your parents have to bring a change of clothes. The second time you’re suspended for a day. But it’s good that the school is strict. People definitely behave better than they did at Audubon.

I’m learning a lot more this year than I did last year at Audubon. I have new and better books in math, science and history. And it’s smaller. We have about 20 students in each class. The good thing about having fewer students is fewer troublemakers. Now, since the teachers can spend time teaching and less time telling students to behave, I’m learning more.

I’m finally learning in my Spanish class

In Spanish class in my old school, we learned simple words and phrases like “hola” and “como estas,” but the teacher couldn’t pay enough attention because students in the class threw papers, pencils and spitballs at each other. The teacher spent most of the time trying to calm students down, but they didn’t listen. I didn’t feel like I learned that much. I didn’t know how to speak any sentences or how to write in Spanish. But now  I can write a little and I can even speak in simple sentences, like “Me gusta usar la computadora.” (I like to use the computer.)

My mom thinks that I made the right choice. She says that she likes the teachers because they’re strict. We didn’t get much homework at Audubon or if we did it was assignments out of the book, like finding definitions, which was too easy. My mom would tell me that the teacher should give me more homework. My mom likes it now because I get one to two hours of homework a night. I don’t like doing homework, but it’s good because it’ll help me get smarter and prepare me for college. I think I made the right choice, too.