Roosevelt High School Class of 1963
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Not all you‘d see at Roosevelt is familiar

If you pulled up to Roosevelt these days, you’d certainly recognize your old building at 4029 28th Av. S.—despite new windows and a cleaner look to the brick exterior. But once inside, you might start wondering if you were in the right school.

Yes, the halls would look familiar, but the students walking down them have changed. Today Roosevelt has nearly 84 percent minorities in its student body of 1,268 in grades 9-12. The school is 51 percent African-American (including a large Somali contingent), 20 percent Hispanic-American, 9 percent Asian-American and 3 percent Native American. That leaves 16 percent white.

It’s simply a reflection of what’s happening in the inner city, with only seven of 11 Minneapolis public high schools remaining, while the population of nonwhites grows and school boundaries have all but been erased. You could easily meet a student from the North Side attending Roosevelt these days.

That’s due in part to the establishing of what the Minneapolis Public Schools calls small learning communities (SLCs). You can think of them as magnet programs. Four SLCs exist at Roosevelt--1) cars & collision and construction (automotive and building trades), 2) health careers/medical, 3) open (an interdisciplinary, project-based approach to critical thinking and creativity) and 4) world studies. The SLCs are designed to prepare students for advanced college placement or for jobs in their field of interest.

Despite these specialized programs and an academic environment well-grounded in basic high school courses, things could be better at Roosevelt. With a large population of minorities—many of them immigrants—and students coming from all over the city, it’s easy to predict that many of these students and their families aren’t as engaged in the community and school as we were. The graduation rate isn’t what it used to be.

You might have seen an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last year. Johns Hopkins University researchers gathered U.S. Department of Education data for the Associated Press that labeled some high schools “dropout factories.” That means that their senior class is made up of 60 percent or fewer of the students who entered as freshmen.

Roosevelt was one of seven schools from Minnesota on the list. Henry and North were also on it. Our alma mater retained only 51 percent of its students from grade 9 to grade 12, using senior class counts from 2004-06. The researchers conceded that some students transferred, but most did indeed drop out.

That kind of reality is hard to overcome. Still, Roosevelt High School has been around since the fall of 1924 and will continue to serve young adults in Minneapolis who want to learn. Who knows? Those of us lucky enough to be around just might see Roosevelt celebrate a 100th anniversary some day.



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