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'I just got lucky.' North St. Louis teen reflects on 11 years in the desegregation program

Mya Petty poses for a portrait before graduation last week.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Mya Petty poses for a portrait before graduation last week.

Since second grade, Mya Petty has taken an hour-long bus ride from Baden, her mostly-black north St. Louis neighborhood, to Chesterfield – where most of her classmates were white.

The recently graduated 18-year-old is one of thousands of students in St. Louis’ long-running school desegregation program, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation. Last year, administrators voted to bring the decades-long program to a close.

Petty is grateful for the education she received in the Parkway School District and will attend Saint Louis University in in August. However, leaving her neighborhood every day for 11 years to receive a quality education has her questioning the stark inequalities in both the public school system and the entire region.

 

Listen to Mya Petty talk about the social and emotional toll of being in the deseg program

 

Mya Petty rides a Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation bus back home from Parkway Central High School.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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Mya Petty rides a Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation bus back home from Parkway Central High School.

Carolina Hidalgo joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as the station’s first visual journalist. She now produces photographs, digital stories and radio features with a focus on issues of race, inequality and immigration. In 2019, she reported from the United States-Mexico border as an International Women’s Media Foundation fellow. In 2018, she was named one of The Lit List’s “30 photographers to watch.” Carolina also volunteers as a mentor with NPR’s Next Generation Radio project. She is a proud native of New York City and a member of Women Photograph and Diversify Photo.

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