A full collegiate scholarship is a dream for some high school students, especially those that come from a low socio-economic status or those that are first-generation college students. While that dream is not a bad dream, it was not my dream.
I attended an inner-city public high school where a large number of students applying to college based their decision of where to attend on the institution that gave them the most money. That was their deal breaker, and I understood their rationale. How could I not understand that financial aid is an important part of a students’ success? Not only was I bused across town to school, but I lived in an inner-city neighborhood that required me to lie down on the floor because gunshots took off outside my window as frequently as airplanes on a runway. My single-parent worked 16 hours a day, and we did not get to see much of each other, so I understand ‘the dream’.
During my senior year, I was nominated to participate in a comprehensive college access program for students who are outstanding young leaders from diverse backgrounds and that have a desire to succeed. The ‘winner’ of the three-step selection process is granted a full tuition scholarship. After successfully completing each step, I was offered a scholarship to attend Centre College in Kentucky and I declined the offer by politely saying, “Thank you, but no thank you.” The college access program staff and others could not understand why I, a student who was not privileged, would turn down a full ride. I was asked on many occasions, “Are you insane? How will you pay for college? What would make you give up ‘free money’?” Then there were times when I was told, “Take the scholarship.”
I am sorry that I don’t fit your generally accepted trend of the have-nots. I suppose I should live up to the stereotypical ways as ignorant, lazy and dependent, too?
I want you to know this non-privileged student went on to follow her mind and heart and actually ended up at a pretty decent college; it’s called Bates. Perhaps you have heard of it. It’s ranked the 22nd best liberal arts college in the United States. There, I found a supportive environment that matched my academic interests, and I loved it!
I graduated with courage, wisdom, faith and no regrets. The next time you offer an inner-city student a full scholarship, please remind yourself that money cannot buy happiness.
Alysé is a progressive advocate who has worked in the non-profit sector for five years. She has been responsible for mobilizing, developing and nurturing racial, economic and educational initiatives. Her long-term goal is to design and implement social policies in order to reduce poverty, increase economic mobility, and improve educational opportunities and to advocate for and implement changes in the legal system to enhance social justice. She is the Popular Education Intern at Class Action located in Boston, MA.