Mpaza S. Kapembwa
Mpaza S. Kapembwa

Throughout Cross Keys High School’s elongated attendance area, too many parents move to other districts or chose private schools because they believe that will give their kids a better education.

Last year, some Brookhaven parents got extremely mad at the suggestion that their children might sit in a class next to “those Woodward Elementary School kids.” Others labeled us “those Mexicans gangsters.”

We won’t let others’ ignorance define who we are. But I do wonder, if they are so swift in judging our children how do they judge their own children?

Some community members might have forgotten about Cross Keys and its feeder schools but that doesn’t stop us from continuing to work hard for our students.

Our county champion and state-ranked robotics team just traveled to California in April to compete in the Vex World Robotics Championship, where they finished 11th out of the top 400 teams from all over the world.

Unlike other teams from around the country and the globe, our team didn’t have uniforms, banners or a cheering crowd of parents and classmates that traveled with them. Until one hour before the deadline to travel, the team didn’t even have the funds to get to the competition. A last minute miracle made sure that the DeKalb champions made the trip to represent our city, county, state and country at the highest level of competition.

As Coach Radford always told us on the football team, “When you are doing something great, good people will notice.”

Cross Keys is about to become the first school in the state of Georgia to build and race a solar car in the Winston Solar Challenge.

This year’s graduating class has the Metro Atlanta Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, Laura Ramirez; a Scripps Scholar, Chandra Dickey; a Gates Millennium and Dell Scholar, Jinni Tran; and a Goizueta Scholar, Carlos Guzman. These join other Cross Keys students attending the best colleges in the nation.

Those who think Cross Keys is a place for gangs and “those kids” are focusing on what re-enforces their own preconception. What we focus on, we magnify. When a child comes to Cross Keys, he or she will be sitting next to a high-achieving scholar and not a gang member, as others may have you believe.

There are a lot of problems that our school needs to fix – we are no different in this regard than any DeKalb school.

Others may keep looking down on us and our feeder schools, but we continue to be excellent and our teachers continue to invest in young people whom too many have written off.

One of my Cross Keys teachers always used to tell us, “The best way to fight unfair treatment is through excellence,” and at Cross Keys and its feeder schools, we strive for excellence no matter what misconceptions are laid upon us.

Mpaza S. Kapembwa is a freshman at Williams College, studying on a Gates Millennium Scholarship, among others. He can be reached at

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