11/26/2014 04:38 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2015

A Letter to High School Seniors of Color

Dear Student,

As you work arduously to submit college applications or even consider the possibility of higher education, I am sure you are aware of the racial uproar -- as a result of an unjust decision to let a White police officer, who killed an unarmed 18-year-old Black male, off the hook -- reverberating across our nation. As I woke up the morning after the decision was made, I found my Facebook page filled with posts from friends and colleagues expressing their utter disbelief and anger -- the Ferguson event is illustrative of the fact that equality has not been reached because our nation is not configured to embrace a reality in which "Black Lives Matter." I share this with you not so as to scare you, but to inspire you to push forward.

Here's the thing: racial injustice will continue to occur unless our nation makes significant changes to the laws and policies that disproportionately penalize people of color. One way that you can fight for a better reality is to earn a college degree. Simply put: knowledge is power. Opportunity -- jobs, graduate education, and positions of leadership and power, to name a few -- in this country is really reserved for those with a college degree. A degree can enhance your professional presence and voice and your access to spaces and people who will listen to you. I need you to not only attend college, but to graduate so that you can take advantage of these opportunities that will position you to enact change in our country.

Consider these facts:
+68 percent of baccalaureate degrees in 2012 were awarded to White students
+95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are White
+82 percent of Congress are White

Your decision to attend college represents a chance for you to make a mark on this world -- to drastically alter our nation's landscape that is currently doing very little to support racial equality. In the words of a dear friend and colleague, Felecia Commodore, "Education is rebellion."

When life gets tough, and in college, it certainly will, remember that individuals and communities -- many of them without the privilege of earning a higher education- -a re counting on you to succeed so that your perspectives and opinions can tear at the blindfold of Lady Justice and bring to light a reality where the lives of our brothers and sisters are truly valued.

In solidarity,

Thai-Huy Nguyen