Opinion | Opening Doors for Disadvantaged Students

To the Editor:

Re “A Program Inspires Ivy League Dreams in Disadvantaged Teens” (front page, Feb. 19):

I was impressed with the National Education Equity Lab’s goal of working with Ivy League colleges to prepare promising students from underresourced high schools for academic challenges. The opportunity to participate in college-level courses at these universities gives the students confidence and experience, while the universities are creating a pipeline of talent for future admission.

What jumped out at me, though, was the requirement that the students’ school districts foot the bill for these courses (between $250 and $1,800 per student) through local school funds or philanthropic contributions. Why in heaven’s name should cash-strapped local schools be expected to help Ivy League colleges with the cost? Why are they not dipping into their obscenely large endowments to create a long overdue pipeline for future students?

Karen Geiger
Berkeley Lake, Ga.

To the Editor:

As a college professor who was co-chair of my institution’s antiracism task force, I have two thoughts about the students who complete the college courses made available to them through the National Education Equity Lab.

First, it is even harder for these students to excel in college courses because they do not have the same amount of time as college students. High school students’ time is accounted for from roughly 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. If they play a sport or an instrument, either their afternoon or evening is booked with practices and rehearsals. Finding the time to do a college course requires tremendous focus and discipline.

Second, it is not enough to get these students into college. The challenges they face once they matriculate are overwhelming. I’ve had similar students commute three hours each way every weekend to care for a sibling with autism and the frail great-uncle who raised them, or work the night shift at a local business to help support the family.

If colleges are genuine in their stated desires to educate diverse students, they need to support them in a variety of ways once the students enroll. This will help ensure that they are not just diversity statistics, but people who thrive at the institution and in their post-baccalaureate lives.

Shari Jacobson
Selinsgrove, Pa.
The writer is an associate professor of anthropology at Susquehanna University.

To the Editor:

Your uplifting news story reminds me of when I was with inner-city teens at a lunch on a college campus in Savannah. After they walked around campus, sat in classes and listened to athletes telling them how important studying is, we all went to lunch. With us was the president of the university, who spoke with the visiting youngsters. After a few brief speeches, the person at the microphone asked if anyone else would like to say anything.

Up stands a ninth grader. She walks to the microphone and says: “Teens for Literacy made me realize I can do more than I thought I could do. It makes me realize I can be more than I knew I could be.” Then she sat down quietly. The audience was stunned.

There are many stars among us.

Allen Berger
Savannah, Ga.
The writer is the founder of Teens for Literacy, a program to improve reading and writing in inner-city schools.

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