Ten years ago, students at a wealthy New York City private school, Fieldston, exchanged visits with students at a high-poverty Bronx public school three miles away.
This American Life, which covered the program, talked to University Heights students 10 years later. Two-thirds went on to college, but few earned a degree, reports Chana Joffe-Walt. Like the elite private school, college was “a foreign land.”
A top student at University Heights, Melanie was nominated for a Posse scholarship, but lost out in the final round. She gave up on college.
Tracked down a decade later at the grocery store where she is now employed, Melanie acknowledged that she does the work she’d always hoped to escape: “wearing the uniform, servicing these people.” She meant the ones who’d gone to Fieldston.
But she knew that she was the one to blame: “I just grew angry at myself for making that choice of saying, ‘Well, I’m going to accept this,’ instead of fighting against it.”
Teachers at both high schools offered to help, but Melanie did not accept.
Her classmate, Raquel Hardy, remembers the Fieldston library, where students could leave their book bags unattended with laptops inside. University Heights didn’t have a library. “It motivated me,” she told Joffe-Walt.
Also rejected for a Posse scholarship, Hardy won a scholarship to Bard. “My first year, I got C-pluses and B-minuses,” she said. “It was devastating to me because I was an A-plus student in high school.”
But she persisted and earned a degree. She doesn’t know anyone else in her class who graduated. She’s now a teacher.
Her high school boyfriend, Jonathan Gonzalez, went to Wheaton on a Posse scholarship. He couldn’t afford textbooks, so he stopped doing the work or going to class. He ignored offers of help and flunked out. At 25, he works at a gym and lives with his mother.
Via Education Gadfly.