Stories of Being First

This blog has been neglected for too long  as I’ve been pulled into too many other things.

But one of the things I’m most proud of (and in which I’ve invested the most time) is the launch of the First in Our Families Digital Storytelling Project.  With my project partner Class Action , I’ve been doing workshops around the country, inviting students (and sometimes, faculty and staff) to craft a story of Being First.

Last weekend, I worked with graduate students from across the three campuses of the University of Washington, and the stories that they chose to make public are now on the project site.

I invite you to browse, listen, and learn from these students.

Here is a just one of the powerful stories:

Right Before Her Eyes from First In Our Families on Vimeo.

I’m forever grateful for the crowdfunding that made this project possible.  Check out the website for more about this project, and let me know if you’re interested in workshop at your campus.

Class, Race, and Student Debt

This report from Demos makes clear that student debt is disproportionately the problem of low-income and students of color.

Knowing that these students are also the least likely to make it to graduation makes the report more troubling.

  • Black and Latino students are dropping out with debt at higher rates than white students. At all schools, nearly 4-in-10 (39%) of Black borrowers drop out of college, compared to 29% of white borrowers. Around the same number (38%) of low-income borrowers1 drop out compared to less than a quarter of their higher-income peers. Nearly two-thirds of Black and Latino student borrowers at for-profit four-year schools drop out (65% and 67% respectively). Nearly half (47%) of Black student borrowers drop out with debt at for-profit 2, and less-than-2-,year institutions.

When Families Can’t Afford Summer

My campus fills with camps for kids in summer.  In the weeks I teach, I have to navigate around parents dropping kids off for computer camps and science camps, and down the hall from my classroom, kids are doing something with legos and circuits.

In my own family, I hear the parents who are professionals start planning in February for the camps their children will attend in summer.  My students start asking for our summer class schedules early in Winter so that they can plan summers for their kids.

______

 

In High School, I’d  babysit in summer.  Inexperienced and often unenthused about the work, I was the only adult in the lives of young children during those days. At least those families could afford to pay me a few dollars an hour.

Yesterday, the NYT published an essay reminding us that many families cannot afford even that:

WHAT are your kids up to this summer? Sounds like a casual question. But for working parents at this time of year, it’s loaded. What have you managed to pull together that will keep your kids engaged, healthy, happy and safe, while still allowing you to keep feeding and clothing them? For most parents, summer, that beloved institution, is a financial and logistical nightmare.

The financial and logistical nightmare of long summers out of school is sustained in part by the insistence of privileged parents that their children need time to refresh, to invest in enriching summer activities, or to travel.  While I’m sure that the logistics of camps and nannies and transportation become complicated, there is at least no worry that children are basically safe and cared for.

Study Abroad for Low Income College Students

A study has found important and long-term effects of scholarships for study abroad for Pell Grant eligible students. The list of benefits — personal, civic, academic–go far beyond gaining skills for “competing in a global economy”, yet I acknowledge that economic metrics are what matter most to many evaluators.

“The Evaluation data shows that the Gilman Scholarship is diversifying the kinds of students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go by offering awards to U.S. undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints,” the evaluation report states. “From changed perspectives on the world and new interests in working on global issues to focusing academic pursuits on international topics and deepening foreign language skills, the Gilman Scholarship has enabled students of limited financial means to develop the knowledge and competencies required to compete in a global economy.”

School Libraries Optional for Low-Income Children

In Seattle, a city booming around knowledge-economy and tech industries, low income children have access to only minimal materials in their school libraries while children in other parts of the district have access funded by parent fund-raisers:

In a survey early this year by Seattle librarians, they found one elementary school in Northwest Seattle that received $2,000 from the district for library materials and raised an additional $11,500, for a total of $25.47 per student. In that school, only 9 percent of students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches.

Yet a similarly sized elementary in West Seattle, where 83 percent of the students qualify for federal free- or reduced-price lunches, only $2.14 is spent per student for books and other items. An average book in that school’s library is 24 years old, compared with 13 in the Northwest Seattle school

School librarians took this on, even while they could instead have positioned them in the better-resourced schools where their jobs were easier and more fulfilling.  Kudos to them.

Class at at Elite Campus

This looks like another excellent book on class on campus — at least elite campuses.  Certainly the contrasts of class are most stark in such places.

And surely, the class dynamics that may be harder to identify a such,  that may be just as devastating, that may be interpreted by students as “I’m just not as good as those students who seem like me”- those class dynamics between the children of poor and working class parents and the children of professionals at the hundreds and hundreds of state schools across the country are also worthy of study.

Class not simply the line between the wealthy and the rest of us.

But as for this book, we cannot say things like this enough:

At elite colleges like the one I studied, middle- and upper-income students tend to be understood as typical, while low-income, first-generation students are the exceptions, the outsiders coming in. Echoing what we see in broader popular culture, middle- and upper-income student experiences are presented as common, and the kinds of jobs their parents have are presented as desirable. By contrast, there’s very little discussion of class inequality, or of working-class or low-income lives, except as something to leave behind.