Many of the college seniors I’ve taught are counting the days until they adorn cap and gown in May and receive their much-coveted diplomas.
It’s a great moment, and especially for those who are the first in their families to go to college. They are American success stories — people from lower-income families whose bachelor’s degree represents their ascent into the middle class.
Yet this success is hardly a given since low-income students are susceptible to dropping out. Many are not adequately prepared either academically or emotionally, and lack confidence in their abilities. And even with financial aid, many cannot afford to stay in school.
Fortunately, there are lots of nonprofits that help kids surmount these hurdles by working with them during middle and high school to stay on track academically. Several students I’m teaching this semester are living proof of the power of these organizations. One told me she wouldn’t be in college if it weren’t for Dynamy; another stayed focused during the time she spent at the Boys and Girls Club; a third developed the motivation to succeed when she worked at More Than Words.
Because it is a great story when low-income students graduate from the nation’s best colleges, it’s no wonder that a recent study about the dearth of high-achieving, low-income students at these schools made the headlines this week.
The bigger story that deserves publicity is that middle-of-the-road kids who strive to “be the dream” often drop out, and that there are lots of nonprofits quietly working every single day to reverse this trend.