By Shannah Varón

In a city with a difficult history of race relations, one of the most important strengths schools can give our students is the ability to communicate across racial lines. Boston Collegiate Charter School, located in Dorchester and with a student body that mirrors the demographics of a changing city, has had to navigate difficult conversations around race, diversity, and immigration. For all the progress that has been made on these issues, these conversations seem as important today as they’ve ever been—maybe more so. They are critical if we are going to overcome systemic issues and ingrained biases in our city.

Our road to racial diversity was partly serendipitous and partly deliberate. When we first opened our doors in 1998 as South Boston Harbor Academy, our student body was 95 percent white. As one of the first charter schools to open in Boston, we often received attention for our lack of integration, especially against the backdrop of the neighborhood that was then our home, with its controversial history around busing and desegregation.

In 2004, in pursuit of additional space for our growing student body, we moved to a new campus in Dorchester. There, we began to organically attract a more diverse student population through our public lottery admission process. By 2010, the school was 55 percent white, 44 percent African-American, Latino, or multiracial, and 1 percent Asian.  Today, we are 48 percent white, 50 percent African-American, Latino, or multiracial, and 2 percent Asian.

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