Jensen and I share that same understanding of hopelessness that growing up in a small rural town often has. I have students, very bright ones that won't be able to attend college. They will end up in services jobs in this same little town or perhaps one directly adjacent. Maybe they will settle down, have children of their own and start the cycle all over again. I was one of the last generations to get a college education for a reasonable amount of money. (I can't believe I just call 20,00 a year reasonable but today that statement IS true.) I was also lucky that I was chosen to attend a federally funded summer camp for low income, first generation college students called Upward Bound. UB payed for my summer classes, paid for my SATs, paid for four college entrance fees and took me throughout New England for college tours, for free. To say I was lucky is again an understatement.
As Jensen, worries about her struggling students, I worry about mine. They no longer have Upward Down, the feds shut it down in six years ago, they no longer have the luxury of the shoe shop which closed my sophomore year in H.S., they have very limited options unless they have access to transportation for employment (unless they live downtown) and those are scarce for High Schoolers. It's discouraging and demoralizing to know that smart kids will be stuck in this cycle of poverty, kids who could find the cure to cancer but instead must settle for a job at the local Dunkn'. I do what I can. I am still in contact with my Upward Bound councilors, they have since moved on but the wealth of knowledge they have to help with financial aid questions, college essays, etc. is immeasurable. I read and edit college essays, I to find scholarships, and help students navigate the web of financial aid. However, for most they understand it won't happen. So, as will all of our teaching staff, I do what I can with stashes of granola bars for those students I know haven't eaten since lunch yesterday, extra time on computers because this only access for homework they have, we all try but like Jensen says "It takes money to make money" and our town cannot afford another tax raise for extra services. So like Jensen, I have conversations with my students, as she does, silly things, because even at 16 my students know .... It's hard to get out of a town like this.