Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) student and Gardena High School senior Karly Jeter recently won a prestigious Posse Foundation Scholarship to attend the Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the fall as a pre-med student. She is a cancer survivor, and her experiences have inspired her to be an oncologist. Although she is passionate about science and medicine, Karly is typically only one of two or three black students in her Advanced Placement classes at Gardena. Reflecting back on her junior year, she recounted when her AP English teacher excluded her from a list of students (all Asian and Latino) he predicted would pass the mock AP exam. When she was one of the few who passed he accused her of cheating. In her chemistry class she and other African American students were routinely criticized by their teacher as having no other ambition in life besides playing sports.
What are your career and college ambitions?I’m excited about going to a small campus and having small classes. I feel that I’ll be able to talk to professors more easily. I’m looking forward to studying abroad. I want to go to Korea or Japan. I took Japanese for two years. I don’t believe that Gardena has prepared me to go to college. Going into a medical program I’m expected to already know Calculus and Physics. Although GHS has these courses, the teachers were mediocre. It will be complicated for me. Most of the students in my Posse are of color so they have similar experiences.
How has being in WLP shaped your perspective on the issues that confront young women of color?It has opened my eyes to new realizations and allowed me to understand social issues better. I feel as though women of color are still downgraded. Today I interviewed a woman who was in the Iraq War and she was demeaned. I think that being African American has a lot to do with the way I’m perceived as not being capable enough. My teacher was shocked that I wanted to be an oncologist; he expected me to be a pediatrician. I’m not that fond of children anyway. I get that kind of prejudice very often. I only have one female oncologist and she is not taken as seriously as she should be. I feel that tension and I know that I will feel that in college because of the stereotypes that women of color don’t have those aspirations.