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Nearly seventy years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, our public schools effectively remain segregated. And, by some measures, New York City has the most segregated system in the country. For a group of high schools in Brooklyn, change has long seemed impossible. But now those schools are putting their hopes in an unlikely place: sports.
The John Jay Educational Campus in Park Slope, Brooklyn, houses four public high schools. Three of them have a student body with a Black-and-Latino majority; the fourth is disproportionately white and Asian. For a decade, students from all four schools shared a cafeteria and a gym but played on two separate sports teams—sometimes even competing against one other. Last year, the athletics programs merged, and the hope is that this change will break down some of the divisions between students. Angelina Sharifi, a student who plays volleyball, said that a team has to mesh in order to win. “And meshing is, like, the best feeling ever—having a pass, set, swing, that fits perfectly with one another,” she said. “That kind of unspoken connection that comes with volleyball is super satisfying for me.”
This is a story of how students and adults grapple with enduring inequities, and how the merger is playing out on the girls’ varsity volleyball team. “I want this to work. I really do,” Mariah Morgan, another student, said, “because it has the potential to be incredibly anti-racist.”
This reporting originally aired as part of the podcast “Keeping Score,” a co-production of WNYC Studios and The Bell.