This I Believe

Cheryl - Fort Worth, Texas
Entered on April 1, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: equality

I believe in an equal education for all. I believe in equity regardless of race, creed or color. That may sound obvious or even outdated, but the statement is more meaningful today than 50 years ago.

The past few years I have worked with high school students in the college preparatory program. The courses I teach are rigorous and meaningful. Plus, I get to work with very smart kids, perhaps some times, smart alec as well. I was happy in my blissful suburbia high school but recently had a chance to work in a large district, teaching the high achieving kids and working with their teachers to develop a successful college entrance program.

I have been amazed at my students. All of my students are minorities. They are as bright as any I have ever worked with, as quick and kind, as well-mannered, yet they do not have the same chance to succeed.

How is it different across town? Where I work, the building is in disrepair. . The hall may have kids yelling during class so loudly that teaching is difficult. Fights break out in the room next door. Teaching equipment gets stolen, but none of this is any of my students’ faults. They are in class, working to go to college. They are reading college level texts, writing college level essays and creating college level projects, yet they must learn in spite of the chaos.

At my school, it is difficult to recruit good teachers. Many are afraid of the area and the students and poverty. Yet this is not my students’ fault. They do their homework, show up for tutoring, have perfect attendance and are obedient. They most often have parents who care, but still the parents may work two jobs, have little spending money and no free time to discuss college with their children.

So my students prepare college applications, fill out forms for grants, write a dozen college essays and pray for help without help from home. I work with them on their essays and applications, the counselors look for grants and scholarships, the community provides what it can.

I had one student whose father was sent to jail but he kept his grades up. I had another student who worked as a stripper to save money for college, and another who often worked late into the night to support his aged grandmother and save for school. The students went on to college.

So I cajole and promise, push and beg, convince my students that college will make it all better. They will have good jobs and opportunities. I make these promises, believing them myself.

And yet, last week it all blew up in my face. There was a huge college tutoring program—all day in the richer part of town. Students from the whole district were invited. My students were to ride the busses over, along with the other students who didn’t have their own cars. The school busses forgot to pick up the kids and my students sat, waiting for over an hour to come to tutoring to help them get into college.

The richer kids came in their cars. They got the tutoring. They will go to college.

I do not deny these kids their own university entrance. My own children will be these kids soon, but I want my students to have the same opportunities.

Can I face my students and promise them that life will get better with an education? I have seen it happen. I have taught long enough to watch lives change after college. I have to believe in the value of an education because it is all I can offer them.

But how can I make it equal? How can I insure them that the bus will show up?

I want everyone to have the same great opportunities that an education has to offer. I just want to make sure that my students will have that bus show up.