By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
(CNN) - The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear oral arguments in an important affirmative-action case - whether the University of Texas' race-conscious admissions policy violates the rights of some white applicants.
The justices will decide whether and when skin color and ethnicity can be used to create a diverse college campus. CNN gathered comments from three current or former students with a direct interest in the case. Their comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Justices to re-examine use of race in college admissions
Abigail Fisher, plaintiff in the Supreme Court appeal
Fisher was denied admission to the state's flagship university and filed a lawsuit challenging the selection process. She graduated this year from Louisiana State University, and issued a statement of her views, through her legal team.
FISHER: "I dreamt of going to UT (the University of Texas) ever since the second grade. My dad went there, my sister went there, and tons of friends and family. And it was a tradition I wanted to continue.
"There were people in my (high school) class with lower grades who weren't in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT. And the only difference between us was the color of our skin. I took a ton of AP (advanced placement) classes, I studied hard and did my homework, and I made the honor roll. I was in extracurricular activities - I played the cello, I was in math club, and I volunteered. I put in the work I thought was necessary to get into UT.
"I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does this set for others? A good start to stopping discrimination would be getting rid of the boxes on applications - male, female, race, whatever. Those don't tell admissions people what type of student you are, or how involved you are. All they do is put you into a box, a theoretical box.
By Larry Lazo, CNN
(CNN) - Nineteen-year-old Sergio Peña is living his dream.
"You know, to be a race car driver - it almost doesn't seem real," he said. "It doesn't seem like a job at all. It's more like play to me."
Peña may say it feels like play, but his work ethic says otherwise.
"He is a very methodical, very calculated race car driver," said Kip Childress, director of NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East. "Sergio is a driver that uses a whole lot of thought behind the steering wheel."
Peña is from Virginia and is a first generation Colombian American. His love for racing started at age 4 when his father bought him a dirt bike.
Jai Peña saw early on that there was no turning back. "He loved it from day one," his father said.
Peña has been competing professionally since he was 13. Motocross, Go-Karts, Formula cars - he was game for anything. But his love for all things speed didn't come without a price.
By Jacque Wilson, CNN
(CNN) - Kim Shifren came home from school one day to find her world turned upside down. Her mom had suffered a massive heart attack; doctors said she would need weeks to recover.
In a matter of minutes, the 14-year-old went from child to child caregiver.
Shifren spent the next month bathing, dressing and feeding her mom before school. When she got home, she cleaned the house and made dinner. Her dad helped when he could, but he worked long hours to support the family.
Two years later, Shifren had to do it all again when her mom had another heart attack. And then again when a third heart attack hit two years after that.
In between, Shifren tried to be a normal teen. But the time she spent living in fear of losing her mom had a lasting impact.
"I felt that getting married and having kids just wouldn't be right, because I was so sure I would have early heart disease like my mom," said Shifren, now an associate professor of psychology at Towson University. "I didn't want to put a husband and children through that experience."
It's difficult to say how many child caregivers there are in the United States. The only national survey on the topic, a 2005 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving (PDF), estimated that there were at least 1.3 million between the ages of 8 and 18 - most caring for a parent or grandparent, some looking after a sibling.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.
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