Wilde Lake Community Combats Racism in the Classroom

When Michelle Enomanna walked into her first high school GT class, she felt out of place. The very first thing she noticed was that she was only one of five Black or Brown students in a class of over 20.

What Michelle saw is common at Wilde Lake. According to Propublica, White students at Wilde Lake are three times more likely to be enrolled in at least one AP course despite Wilde Lake’s student body being 45% Black students and 27% white students. 

Michelle Enomanna in front of the school. She recently launched her campaign for Secretary of Treasury. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Enomanna)

Michelle acknowledges that the lack of representation affects her deeply. “It’s not hard to ask for help, but I constantly felt judged and embarrassed,” she says. “It was like imposter syndrome.” According to Michelle, the feeling of being an outcast stayed with her for the rest of the year, until teachers started to push her to try harder classes.  

Wilde Lake science teacher Ms. Fanckowiak believes the first step in combating racism in the classroom is educating the teachers. Ms. Franckowiak, the head of teacher development at Wilde Lake, gave a new vision for teachers for the 2020-2021 school year. Ms. Francowiak’s vision is colleague-led seminars where teachers learn about what it means to be anti-racist. The vision was influenced by the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, which picked up steam in 2020. 

This year’s seminars included titles such as Anti-Racism 101, Building Anti-Racist White Educators, Equitable and Anti-Racist Grading Policies, Co-Teaching for Equity, Diversifying Curriculum for Anti-Racist Teaching, and Culturally Responsive Teaching. According to Ms. Franckowiak, training is only as good as the teachers willing to follow through. “Luckily,” she says, “The turnout has been amazing and there are many teachers and staff that want to make a change.”

Wilde Lake Principal Ms. Leonard says she is focused on fighting racism at Wilde Lake. “I want every member of the Wilde Lake community to know that our school is a space built on love, justice, and helping every student find their purpose and path.”

Michelle has been a student leader on the Social Justice Committee since January after finding out about it from a newsletter sent out from the group. The group works on increasing Black and Brown student representation in upper level classes. One way that they have done that is by creating a mentorship program to help those students.  

Since the training and mentoring program began, Michelle hasn’t noticed too much of a change yet. “I haven’t really seen a change yet because Wilde Lake has already prided itself on being anti-racist, but I do see more discussions being opened about race,” says Michelle.

Michelle acknowledges that even though progress is being made it doesn’t mean that the work is done. “When I leave Wilde Lake, I want to see GT and AP classrooms filled with Black and Brown students.”