So; here is a piece of my truth.
Tomorrow I am beginning my last quarter of graduate school.
I just wanted to point this out because I was once one of “those” kids. I was once told– by hard-working and well-meaning and wonderful teachers– that I was not going to go on to college. Teachers who cared very deeply about me, and who thought I was a good student, would say things like, “Don’t feel bad. College isn’t in everyone’s future.” Or, “Not everyone is cut out for college.” I was once barred entry to a college prep history class because I was not “college material.” I had an advisor in high school refuse to help me with application materials to a private school because “why waste either of our time?” After I was in college, I had it even worse– professors who should have been dismissed for the way they treated me.
Equitable access to educational opportunities has become the driving force in my life. Because any poor kid can tell you that you never want to have more possessions than what you can carry with you on your back if you have to run in the middle of the night. And once I realized that when I learned something it meant that I could keep it forever, I was hooked. And I want that for everyone; not just for the ones who can afford it.
Don’t get me wrong. My teachers were wonderful people. They would have walked across hot coals every day if it meant that just one more of their students would graduate high school. But they had seen too many students just like me end up with student debt and no degree, because students like me didn’t just lack money, students like me also lacked a support system. It takes more than money, and unfortunately, it also takes more than smarts to muscle your way through a college degree. And though it is getting less relevant by the day, a college degree still opens doors that nothing else will. To being a teacher, for example– which is all I ever wanted to do in my entire life.
So to all my brave little lovelies– bright, capable, but impoverished, needy, hungry, cold, tired, and pushed around– I am here to tell you to keep dreaming. Don’t give up. We’re going to work together, you and I. And we’re going to change all their minds.