My parents talked to me about college before I even entered high school. I was expected to go. I found it alarming, at first, to speak to kids who had never even had the post-high school discussion. It soon became the norm.
College isn’t for everyone. I get that, but to not even present it as an option is wrong especially for children of poverty which statistically meant children of color in my community. Kids saw college and education as something that white kids did. (Their words) They did not see it for themselves unless it was through athletics which was a free education for those that could make the cut. The rest of my kids saw education as something that they could never afford. I had seniors who qualified for pell grants but had no idea about what they were or even how to get them.
The day that I knew we had a problem was the day that a senior AP Art student told me that she didn’t even know how to apply for college. She was an AP Student for crying out loud!!! The whole purpose of that course is to earn enough points on the AP exam that earn college credit. Her parents did not speak english and had never talked to her about anything beyond graduation. They blindly relied on the school for that. She arranged to visit with me everyday after graduation practice where we completed her application to community college and did her FAFSA. Within a few weeks, she was enrolled in school and is actually nearing her graduation from the University of Texas at Arlington where she majored in Art. To this day, the piece that she painted for me hangs in my home.
That moment was my swift kick that if I could do anything for my kids beyond teach them algebra and geometry, it would be to start talking about college, trade schools, FAFSA, scholarships, resumes, community service and help my kids see that there were options beyond the factory jobs of our town.
Within the next year or so, I became our campus sponsor for our UTA Upward Bound Math and Science Program which is a federally funded program that placed qualifying kids in a collegiate environment providing experiences and support in getting into college. I can honestly say that I know of at least 30 kids who would not have gone to college had it not been for this program. Many are nearing graduation.
I think that we must question the purpose of high school if we aren’t working towards a higher purpose. Students should not have to walk off that graduation stage and wonder what is next. Education isn’t a “white” thing. Education is for everyone and if students aren’t feeling that, we haven’t served them at all.
If parents are relying on schools and schools are relying on parents…and no one is coming together on who is doing what…our kids suffer.
The ownership of preparedness lies within those of us that work with children. We need to own that and serve them in every capacity and that includes in post-graduation planning.