When I went to high school, the college-planning process was easy. Sure, my parents had immigrated here from Taiwan. But they both had college educations. It was understood that I would be attending college, no matter what. Though the American process was different, and I was the one who was responsible for sending in every SAT score, researching schools, looking up scholarships, etc., it is clear to me that I was born with an advantage. An advantage that my kids don't have.
I grew up as a minority in a predominately-white, upper-middle class small town in Connecticut (a state with one of the highest socioeconomic and educational disparities in the country). I'm ashamed to say that I didn't realize how growing up in this environment, and in my family structure, gave me a leg up. I never worried about where my next meal would come from. I had a bed to sleep in, in my own room, and when it got cold, I didn't think twice about turning the heat up. I didn't have to work 8-hour shifts after school because my parents had full-time jobs and could pay the bills on their own. Because my parents were employed, I had health insurance. I got braces because, aesthetically speaking, my teeth were slightly crooked and could look better; I saw doctors when I sprained my ankle from playing soccer. I could play soccer, and other sports, and participate in other after-school activities, because I could afford to.
It's obvious to me why applying to college was easier for me. I had the family support and financial means to do so. I had good grades, not because I was smart, or because I spent hours studying, but because I wasn't tired from working a job or from not having had a meal in two days. Getting kids into higher education is a goal that we all want to see achieved. But how do we get there? Can we really admit to ourselves that just getting a good education is enough? Can we really not admit to ourselves that if we want to see students succeed, there need to be changes in how we handle poverty, healthcare, and violence? I love my kids. I love my job. But sometimes, more often than not, I wonder if I'm still failing them.