Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

Education

I didn’t realize how much I was cheated of my education until I got to college

-Waiting for Superman

Yesterday’s Program day was centered around the topic of education.  We discussed the not-so-obvious racism that occurs in the Oakland region when under-privileged, low-income schools filled primarily with students of color lack the access of books, good teachers, and other resources.  In contrast, the piedmont region that borders Oakland to the East is a different world in its own.  Filled with state-of-the-art classrooms, nicely-cut fields,  and entire buildings dedicated to a particular subject, these schools boast high test scores and very few students of color on-site.  It wasn’t news to me that the white schools were more well-off.  My question is, “why do the ‘colored’ schools get the short end of the stick?  Why do so few of them make it to high school graduation, let alone to college?  

I come from a family where college is not the norm, but it felt weird sharing that with the rest of the group yesterday because I felt as if I were the only one, even when I considered the fact that most people in our BayUp class came from migrant families.  I was shocked to hear, too, that a college degree at minimum is a primary indicator that a person has achieved middle class in society.  Well then what does that say about me and my family?  In addition, I was taken aback by a comment said by a student in response the to the question: “What class are you and your family in?”  The student mentioned that his family was in the upper-middle class, and that even though at the moment he felt broke in the sense that he drove a not-so-good car and lived in a tiny room in an apartment, he was assured that he would one day be at upper middle class  as he would receive the help of the wealth of his parents.  I have nothing against that.  It’s just a paradox to me that student who hasn’t been working (in my opinion) as long as my parents would automatically find and identify himself with a social class higher than that of my parents.  I never really thought of that before. Still, it didn’t really sit well with me.  

After watching “Waiting for Superman” I shard with the group a little about my educational journey in terms of schools I went to.  Not really news to me, the middle school I went to, “Thomas R. Pollicita”, was, in Davis Guggenheim’s words, a “dropout factory.”  There truly were bad teachers, gangs who ran around, and people who just didn’t take class seriously.  Fights were apparent, and there even was a shooting while I was there.  There was a lack of resources everywhere, and some of my friends didn’t even finish 8th grade because they got pregnant.  

As a kid you think it’s all fun and games because school was so easy and care-free.  In retrospect, however, I’ve realized that out of my 8th grade class, not many finished high school, and even fewer graduated from college. I was lucky enough to go to the high school on the other side of town rather than the one right by my house that everyone went to.  That decision made by my parents, I believe, has made all the difference.  Unfortunately, not everyone had the same choice.  Most kids in my neighborhood went to the “dropout high school”, and most of them pretty much did that.  It’s hard coming to terms that you were the exception to make it through college, and not the rule.  It was difficult seeing that. 

So now what do I do about this?  I feel a sense of sorrow for those who started my education journey with me, but have since fallen and been left behind.  At the same time, though, I feel a sense of gratitude for those who have been involved in my journey, from teachers to my parents who have put everything they had and even didn’t have into my basket in order to see me succeed.  It makes me realize that even though everyone should deserve to have a college education, that harsh reality is that not everyone will have that opportunity.  I shared with the group that I didn’t even know what college was until high school, and I think it was more because my family didn’t really understand the concept too well themselves.  I pray that this will not be the case for everyone else coming from my community, and that college will be the norm.

As we closed out in prayer, Yu-Shuan asked me and another Latina girl in our Bay-Up class to to stand in the middle as a placeholder for those who did not make it through the education system in both our families and communities.  It felt powerful to intercede on behalf of them, knowing that it was not a mistake that we made it through college, and that whatever hinders people in our community to get through school–family, finances, or self-doubt, would no longer be a hindrance to them. At the same time, that we would continue to advocate and believe in people from where we come from, instilling in them that they can make it, too.  

Please pray for

  • public education system in the United States, and that children would receive it no matter what color or socio-economic status they are
  • finances would not hinder people from going or even staying in college
  • that students of color would not experience guilt or some sense that it is a mistake that they are the only ones from their communities to go to college
  • that people of color would rise up in academia, inspiring students of color to go for their dreams
  • that strongholds and legislation preventing schools from improving would be broken down. 
  • that creative, innovative ways of teaching would be utilized
  • that college would be the norm for EVERYBODY, not just for the privileged few
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