Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Perspective and Inspiration

I have a very high opinion of myself. That probably goes without saying, being a blogger - thinking that "what I have to say" is important enough to justify a regular readership. But - sometimes - I just realize how not special I am. And it kind of feels good.

I just spend the last two hours reading over scholarship applications for the AAYLC (see sidebar for more information), and I've come away humbled. After poring over application after application by kids who've overcome difficulties that I never had to think about as a kid, I'm inspired.

These are first-generation kids that came to the States in their teens, not speaking a lick of English, living in poverty with parents that spoke no English (and thus could not help them navigate the education system), and were still somehow able to dominate, academically. On top of that, these are students who volunteered their time helping other students with similar backgrounds - giving back to their community for real (instead of the lip-service version that many other more-privileged students tend to do). All while working nearly full-time jobs to help support their families.

Not all of the applicants came from this type of background, of course, but very many did - and they all blew me away. Their level of maturity and strength at such young ages really gave me a perspective on my own privilege (my mother immigrated to the States, but I was American from birth, with parents that met in college).

My favorite? A young lady that mirrors the story cited above. What put her above and beyond in my heart (trying to choose who's 'more deserving' in this group is painful and unfair)* was her opening reference to our rich, white male-dominated society and the importance of underrepresented groups finding a voice as a community (I wish I could quote her, but I don't want to push her right to confidentiality). I imagine that - in some cases - that reference would come back to bite her (because who do you think runs the admissions process for most universities?), but it made me smile knowing that her bravery and raw honesty in addressing that found the right reader, in this case.

So I want to give a head-nod to these kids (all of them, really) for giving me a much-needed shot of inspiration and hope for the future this evening. I doubt somebody like me was their intended audience - or, certainly, who they thought they would be inspiring - but that makes it all the sweeter.

I shall sleep happily tonight - a much humbler CVT than when I woke up this morning. And that's very much a good thing.

* And I have to say that the fact that all of these kids don't get their college educations paid for is an f-ing injustice and a sad reflection on the state of "higher learning" and privilege in this country.


Soude! said...

According to college guide for privileged rich students (not me), admissions officers actually tend to be from a lower tax bracket than the students they admit (It makes sense- why work in admissions department when you can get an internship at daddy's [whatever]?). The section of the book (I forgot the name) on figuring out what Admissions wants actually said that applicants (rich privileged students) should be careful of they display their wealth on the app because officers can be "resentful" of the monied classes. there might be some hope for an essay railing against the Old Boys Club.

Greg said...

"And I have to say that the fact that all of these kids don't get their college educations paid for is an f-ing injustice and a sad reflection on the state of 'higher learning' and privilege in this country" (emphasis mine).

The commoditization of education in this country (and increasingly, around the world) is sickening. How much better of a society would this be if everyone was afforded post-secondary education?

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