I stumbled upon the latest episode of This American Life on Tuesday and was hooked pretty quickly. I was also falling asleep before 9:00 so it took me two nights to finish the hour long program.
Quick recap, the program tells the story of two schools (three miles apart) from different ends of the economic spectrum and their students who participated in an exposure program which allowed both sets of students to see a different reality. The majority of the program focuses on the students now, ten years later, and their insights and perspectives into the experience.
As someone who would have attended the private school in this scenario, so much of myself still identifies with the students from the public school. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. While I had more exposure to resources growing up than the students in this story, so much of myself still felt intimated by my peers and the constant need to prove that I too, belonged.
I too have been guilty of thinking that if we could just get students accepted into college, their life trajectory would be transformed. Whilst for some this is true, for the majority of students, placing them in a college environment without resources and continued assistance can be just as detrimental if not more harmful, than their high school experience.
While I love my college program and all that we have accomplished together, it keeps me awake at night wondering if they are truly prepared for the next step, college. I worry that they will be in that 80% that does not graduate within six years. I worry they, like the students in this story, will feel intimated or ashamed, and ultimately allow these vulnerabilities to prevent them from graduating. Even after college, there is more including the job application process that we are still responsible for preparing them for.
It's easy to make assumptions and I, admittedly, have made them myself. I appreciate this story and the perspective it shares to tell the stories of our most vulnerable students. If you have an hour to spare, instead of watching the Real Housewives, listen to this.