Monday, May 22, 2017

New tack for getting rural kids to (better) colleges

Today's New York Times features this story, "Bringing the Dream of an Elite College to Rural Students."   It highlights College Advising Corps, a program that places recent college grads in public high schools to work full time for two years as college counselors, aiming to give "low-income rural students...a shot at the elite range of the American dream."

One of the counselors featured in Anemona Hartocollis's story is Emily Hadley, who is working in Hobbton High School in Newton Grove, North Carolina, population 569 (Sampson County, population 63,431).    Hadley, the story reports, seemed to one student "bizarrely interested in his future and pressed him to think beyond the confines of the sweet potato and hog farms."
Ms. Hadley, 23, a 2015 Duke graduate, said it was hard to make students see the value of a college degree when their parents relied on odd jobs, food stamps or disability benefits and they could improve the situation immediately by making $500 a week as field workers. “What happens in 10 years when your back gives out?” she tells them.
Hadley grew up in New Hampshire, and the story notes that she initially stood out because she did not speak "with the same Southern accent" nor "share[]an easygoing familiarity that [came] from having gone to the same schools and having spent their lives in the same county."  In short, she was an outsider, from "up North."

The story also features Nyreke Peters, a high school senior at Hobbton whom Hadley coaxed (and coached) into applying to Middlebury College in Vermont.  That's where Mr. Peters will be come this fall.  Previously, he had set his sights on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.   Peters wrote his college essay about "what it would feel like to" return to his high school a decade on, as a Middlebury graduate.
He would tell the future Hobbton students that he used to worry that his friends would find out he had spent a summer “living in a hotel paid for by some government program that helped families who could not afford to pay rent.” 
Then he would add: “All I can say is look at where I stand. I am a college-educated man of color. I am a musician who composes music for high school bands because that’s where it all begins.”
For more on the rural-urban gap in the elite college sector, see here and here.

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