Posts Tagged ‘college’

Photo: Georgia State University.
Latonya Young was able to finish college after Kevin Esch, her Uber passenger, secretly paid off previous school costs.

This feel-good story was widely reported, but just in case you missed it, I want you to know that once upon a time when an Uber driver mentioned to a passenger that she couldn’t finish college because of a debt for classes already taken, the passenger knew he had to help out. And — secretly at first — he did. But it may have been the ongoing friendship and support that had the biggest effect.

Sydney Page has the story at the Washington Post. “Latonya Young, a 44-year-old single mother of three, received a bachelor’s degree [in May]. It was a lifelong goal — and she credits one of her Uber passengers with making it possible.

“She met the passenger three years ago when she pulled over in downtown Atlanta to pick him up. Kevin Esch, who had just come from an Atlanta United soccer game, got into her car. The two started chatting.

“ ‘The conversation was easy and felt authentic,’ said Esch, 45.

“He shared details about his recent divorce, and Young — whose marriage ended in 2011 — offered advice.

“During the half-hour ride to Esch’s home, he learned that Young, who had been an Uber driver for three years, was working late that night because she needed money to pay a utility bill.

“And he learned something else: Young wanted to be the first member of her family to graduate from college. Although Young started taking classes at Georgia State University in 2010, she dropped out a year later because she couldn’t pay the tuition.

“Once they arrived at his home, Esch, an estate manager, tipped Young $150 — enough to cover the utility bill — and gave her his phone number.

“ ‘She promised me that she would go back to school,’ he said, adding that he asked her to keep him informed throughout the enrollment process. It was the start of an unexpected friendship.

“After the Uber ride, ‘I had my mind made up that I wanted to go back to school,’ she said. ‘He motivated me.’

“But a few weeks later, when Young tried to re-enroll at Georgia State, she was told that she wasn’t permitted to register until her balance from eight years earlier was paid in full. She owed $693 — a sum she couldn’t afford.

“When she told Esch about the financial hold, he immediately went to the university, without Young’s knowledge, and paid off her debt.

‘I didn’t want that to be a roadblock, because it was something that I could change,’ Esch said. ‘I was in a place to be able to do it, and it was the right thing to do.’ …

“ ‘I was in shock,’ Young said. ‘This person barely knew me, and yet he wanted to help me.’

“She vowed to pay him back, but his response was: ‘Pay me back by graduating.’

“Young was grateful for the support, she said, after years of working multiple jobs and putting off her education. …

“ ‘It was like I was stuck inside a box and couldn’t get out. I was just trying to do whatever I had to do to take care of my kids,’ Young said, adding that she was also in a car accident in 2015, which further set her back financially. …

“After meeting Esch, though, ‘I felt it was time for me to do something for myself, and to set an example for my kids,’ Young said. Plus, she added, ‘I wanted to remain a woman of my word and do exactly what I told Kevin I was going to do.’

“She re-enrolled in courses, and in December 2019, Young received her associate’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Perimeter College. Esch was there on graduation day, cheering her on in the stands. …

“Still, ‘I knew I wasn’t finished,’ she said. Getting a bachelor’s degree was her ultimate goal, ‘so I went straight ahead. Not only was I aiming for that, but I was aiming to raise my GPA as much as I could before I graduated.’

“Young continued with her studies while working part time as a substitute teacher, as well as a hairstylist. She also received support from the Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, which offers financial aid to low-income women older than 35 pursuing postsecondary education. …

“ ‘The funding helped me get through the hardships,’ Young said, adding that it was often difficult to manage being a single mother while working two jobs and keeping up with her classes. …

“Despite the challenges, though, Young graduated with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies on May 6. Of course, alongside her family, Esch was in the stands once again — beaming with joy.”

Read the rest of the story at the Post, here.

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Photo: John Campbell via CSM.
“This spring,” says the
Christian Science Monitor, “two groups of Sterling College students spent time at instructor John Campbell’s shop, Alpine Luddites, learning how to design backpacks and operate industrial-grade sewing machines.”

I never cease to be amazed by the great variety of careers out there, some of which are careers that individuals create for themselves. Consider mountain climber John Campbell, who has learned survival skills outdoors the hard way and now shares them with others, often indoors.

Gareth Henderson reported for the Christian Science Monitor on his work.

“After scaling the heights of the Andes, Alps, and northern Rockies, John Campbell understands the importance of proper outdoor gear – and he’s eager to share that knowledge.

“This spring, he taught college students in Vermont the finer points of backpack fixing – and even how to make their own product from scratch. That’s a big advantage for those pursuing outdoor careers, because it’s rarer than one might think, Mr. Campbell says.

“As recently as the 1990s, many outdoor brands in the United States sewed their products locally. But Mr. Campbell, who runs his own gear business, says that’s not the case anymore, and he wants to pass along how it’s done. 

‘These are just good skills to have,’ he says.

“Mr. Campbell is one of three instructors for the first gear design and repair course at Sterling College, in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. The scenic college, about 40 minutes from the Canadian border, has long focused on the environment and sustainability. The new design class has the potential, say the instructors and those in the industry, to not only help students be better prepared for surviving in the wild, but also expand both local gear manufacturing and an understanding of the design process overall.

“ ‘Everything – and I do mean everything – is designed and developed the same way: through a series of steps that visualize, confirm, and then create,’ says Kurt Gray, who runs the design and product operation at Jagged Edge Mountain Gear in Telluride, Colorado. ‘The major benefit to the community,’ he adds, ‘is teaching young people how to realize their dreams through the rigors of meticulous planning and application of skill.’ …

“Mr. Campbell started by introducing students to his business, Alpine Luddites, in Westmore, Vermont. Students – in two groups of five due to pandemic protocols – trained on three large, industrial-grade sewing machines. Each group created its own backpack design, and from there individuals made their own packs, which they personalized with smaller parts, like daisy chains (the bumpy strips on the sides of packs), pockets, clips, and straps. …

“When the students weren’t at Mr. Campbell’s shop, they were honing their new skills on the nearby 130-acre Sterling campus in Craftsbury Common, a village in the town of Craftsbury, where experiential outdoor learning has been in place for five decades.

“Josh Bossin, one of the outdoor education faculty, organized the course and taught the ins and outs of repair and gear history. At his request, the college community dropped off all kinds of outdoor gear for the students to fix.

” ‘This allows us to support our community [with] keeping things out of the landfill, and at the same time, gives my students a chance to do real-life repairs and feel the impact it has with a real “customer,” ‘ says Mr. Bossin. …

“Having more students learn the skills the class is offering, Mr. Campbell says, could help bring back some manufacturing jobs that were lost years ago. … 

“Prin Van Gulden focused on participants mastering fundamentals like sewing in her part of the course, including a range of techniques for making repairs by hand. ‘My goal is for students to gain confidence and competence with the basics,’ says Ms. Van Gulden, an adjunct faculty member in the area of environmental humanities. ‘I want them to feel undaunted, to feel empowered to deal with problems as they come up.’ …

“Tyler Kheang, a student from Philadelphia, would like to use what he’s learned to get others interested in the outdoors. ‘For me personally, I want to get more minorities into the outdoor setting,’ he says.

“These skills save money, he says, as you can repair old gear rather than buying new. And anyone can learn it, he adds. ‘It takes away that financial factor and makes an opportunity for everyone to be equal,’ he says. ‘A lot of people back where I’m from don’t have a lot of money to buy expensive things.’ “

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Aaron Wade
The Wade brothers (from left: Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick) are all going to attend Yale.

I have often felt awe for parents who do a good job of managing twins, especially when the twins are infants. How much greater is my awe of the Wade brothers’ parents, who must have done a lot of things right to manage quadruplets who all became academic achievers.

As Sarah Larimer wrote at the Washington Post in April, “The Wade quadruplets, of Liberty Township, Ohio, learned that all four had been accepted at Harvard and Yale universities — offers that added to a pretty impressive pile of potential college destinations. …

“Besides Harvard and Yale, the Wade brothers have loads of options for the next four years. Nick got into Duke, Georgetown and Stanford. Aaron is in at Stanford, too. Nigel made the cut with Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt, and Zach with Cornell. …

“ ‘The outcome has shocked us,’ Aaron said. ‘We didn’t go into this thinking, “Oh, we’re going to apply to all these schools and get into all of them.” It wasn’t so much about the prestige or so much about the name as it was — it was important that we each find a school where we think that we’ll thrive and where we think that we’ll contribute.’ …

“Darrin Wade, who works for General Electric, and his wife, a school principal, have saved some money for their sons’ education. But the father said it’s not enough to cover four sets of full tuition for four years at full price at elite private universities. The mother and father are mindful of their own need for retirement funds, too.

“ ‘We have to make sure that we’re helping them down the road by not being a financial burden on them when we get older,’ Wade said.” More from the original story here.

I needed to know what the upshot was and managed to find a May follow-up story. NBC reported that Yale offered the four brothers a great financial aid package, so that’s where they are going.

Hat tip: Cousin Claire on Facebook.

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An obvious barrier for single mothers who want a good education is lack of day care. Some high schools help low-income moms with that, but not many colleges. Kirk Carapezza writes at WGBH radio about one college that is leading the way.

“Twenty-three years ago, when Endicott College President Richard Wylie set out to subsidize room, board and childcare for single teenage mothers at this small, four-year private college in Beverly, Massachusetts, he met some resistance. …

“What Endicott decided to do was admit ten low-income single mothers each year, providing them with housing, meals, and childcare. Today, Endicott’s Keys to Degrees program costs the college about half a million dollars a year. It’s an expensive program for a school with a relatively small $65 million endowment, but Wylie says the school has a moral and professional obligation to help single parent students.

“ ‘We’re not here just to educate the brightest and the most privileged,’ Wylie said. ‘If I can send my football team out of the country to play, why can’t we do more?’

“College is usually an opportunity for students to get ahead and improve their lives. But that promise can lead to disappointment for low-income parents if they can’t find affordable, high-quality childcare. According to the Institute for the Women’s Policy Research, only 17 percent of college students with children graduate within six years. …

“A new poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds more than 70 percent of parents say the cost of childcare is a serious problem. And experts say that cost can prevent students with children from graduating.

” ‘Childcare and taking care of your kids can be a major barrier in terms of completion,’ said Gina Adams, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Adams says more schools focusing on serving student parents could positively affect the economy, since most jobs created after the recession require more than a high school degree.

“ ‘Education absolutely is a route out of poverty for low-income parents and for their kids,’ Adams said. ‘But if they have kids and we don’t provide them with the opportunities to make sure that their children are well cared for, then they are unlikely to enroll or be able to succeed.’ ”

More at WGBH radio, here.

Photo: Kirk Carapezza/WGBH
Sarah Schuyler, a junior at Endicott, and her son Asher play in their dorm room after class.

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I thought today would be a good day to note that, with the right supports in place, veterans who have suffered post-traumatic stress while serving the country can move forward with their lives.

The willingness of some of these service men and women to expose their story in the media strikes me as an extra level of bravery.

Kathy McCabe writes at the Boston Globe about Army veteran Michael Saunders.

“Saunders, who served from 2002 to 2006, deployed twice to Iraq … He started therapy at the VA outpatient clinic in Lynn, where a counselor suggested he focus on a new mission: going to college.

“ ‘She said I would make more money with a college degree,’ said Saunders, who worked for a lumberyard after his discharge from the Army.

“He enrolled in VITAL — an acronym for Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership — a national program that helps veterans transition from soldier to student. VITAL brings VA services, including mental health counseling, to college campuses. …

“According to Pam Flaherty, dean of students, Middlesex Community College had nearly 600 student veterans in 2014-15. In the last year, 70 who have PTSD have taken part in VITAL and received mental health care on campus. …

“The Bedford VA also offers the VITAL program at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, North Shore Community College in Danvers and Lynn, Endicott College in Beverly, and Salem State University.

“Saunders, who graduated from Everett High School in 1999, is in his second year studying liberal arts at Middlesex Community College in Bedford. He has discovered a talent for writing, and hopes to transfer to Emerson College next year.

“ ‘It was a rough start, but I’m doing fine now,’ said Saunders, who also has a job at the college’s Veterans Resource Center. ‘Had the VA not had the service in place here, I wouldn’t have come.’ …

“ ‘I can sit in class now, for an hour and 20 minutes,’ Saunders said. ‘I couldn’t sit still for 10 minutes before.’ He has a lingering fear of crowds, so he adjusted his seat in the classroom.

“ ‘ I have to be able to see the door, and I don’t like anybody behind me,’ Saunders said. ‘If I can’t do that, I can’t focus.’

“For one class, Saunders wrote a story called ‘The Dark Is Afraid of Me,’ a fictional account of a military mission in Iraq.

“ ‘It was really easy for me to tell the story,’ Saunders said. ‘When the professor read the paper, she was like, “You need to go see a publisher, now.”

” ‘Maybe I will.’ ”

More such stories at the Globe, here.


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I do like stories about people who love their work so much that they never want to stop.

Perhaps it helps to have a talent like muralist Eric Bransby, who got to study with one of my favorite artists, Thomas Hart Benton. (Suzanne says I have a personal aesthetic, which is a polite way of saying I’m crazy about anything wavy, like Benton’s energetic American landscapes.)

Chloe Veltman writes at National Public Radio, “Eric Bransby is one of the last living links to the great age of American mural painting. He studied with one of this country’s most famous muralists — Thomas Hart Benton — and went on to create his own murals in prominent buildings across the west. The artist is now 98 and still painting.

“At his Colorado Springs studio, Bransby attacks a drawing with tight, sharp strokes, a pastel pencil grasped between gnarled fingers. His studio is unheated, but he doesn’t seem to notice the cold. He’s completely engrossed in the image taking shape on his easel. It’s a study for a new mural that he hopes to install at nearby Colorado College. He says he draws between two and eight hours every day.

” ‘Drawing has been a continuous thing for me, like exercises for a musician,’ he says. ‘It’s refreshing. I draw better. I paint better.’ …

“His parents didn’t encourage his artistic pursuits. It was during the Depression, and when he demanded that he get sent to art school, he remembers his parents said: ‘Well, he’ll do one year and he’ll come back so discouraged that we’ll make something else out of him.’

” ‘But that didn’t happen,’ Bransby says. ‘I found heaven.’ ” Read more here.

Photo: Nathaniel Minor/Colorado Public Radio
Eric Bransby, pictured above in his home in Colorado Springs, is still creating art at 98. “I try to make each mural a project that will somehow expand my abilities a little bit more,” he says.

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As a child, I used to go to my father’s college reunions. All very rah-rah. Now I go to my husband’s at Haverford, which are more self-deprecating and lend themselves to funny stories about football players having to go through the cafeteria line and beg bookworms to come scrimmage.

I spent the weekend pondering whether the more-aged classmates got that way because they quit work or quit work because their health failed. And — amid conversations with people I never see, stimulating panel talks, green-green lawns and trees with nameplates, funny speeches and boring speeches, catching up with a friend who married one of the engineering majors, taking a campus tour, and attending a Quaker memorial service for the deceased classmates — wondering if I would go to my own when it comes around.












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There is a constant drumbeat in the news these days about the cost of college. Of course, it’s not really news. Families have struggled to pay for generations, and there have always been students who worked their way through (Suzanne’s dad, for one). And there have always been a few institutions seeking ways to help them.

Lisa Rathke writes in the Boston Globe about today’s “work colleges,” which believe that working your way through has many advantages, especially if all students are in the same boat.

She writes, “After college, many students spend years working off tens of thousands of dollars in school debt. But at seven ‘Work Colleges’ around the country, students are required to work on campus as part of their studies — doing everything from landscaping and growing and cooking food to public relations and feeding farm animals — to pay off at least some of their tuition before they graduate.

“The arrangement not only makes college more affordable for students who otherwise might not be able to go to school, it also gives them real-life experience while teaching them responsibility and how to work together, officials said. …

“With rising college costs and a national student loan debt reaching more than $1 trillion, ‘earning while learning’ is becoming more appealing for some students. But the work-college program differs from the federal work-study program, which is an optional voluntary program that offers funds for part-time jobs for needy students.

“At the seven Work Colleges — Sterling College, Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky., Berea College in Berea, Ky., Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., College of the Ozarks in Lookout, Mo., Ecclesia College in Springdale, Ariz., and Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. — work is required and relied upon for the daily operation of the institution, no matter what the student’s background.” Read more.

Photo: Sterling College via Associated Press
At the seven Work Colleges, it’s not optional: Students must hold jobs during their undergraduate careers and pay off some of their tuition before they graduate.

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Don’t you love “secret benefactor” stories? You remember, of course, that in Great Expectations Pip was convinced Miss Havisham was his secret benefactor. (Spoiler alert! she wasn’t.)

A similar theme is found in Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s A Little Princess, about a much-abused but uncomplaining orphan who one day trudges the weary steps to her bare-bones garret and discovers a magical world of comfort has been created for her.

In 1912, the American writer Jean Webster wrote an epistolary novel in the same vein, Daddy LongLegs. It’s about a poor girl in an orphanage whose little essays capture the attention of a man on the orphanage board. He doesn’t like girls and wants nothing to do with her other than to send her to college anonymously and see if she can be a success. He keeps tabs by reading letters he has required her to write every month.

Well, you can imagine …

The book was hugely popular in its day and has been made into all manner of anime and films, including one with Shirley Temple and one with Fred Astaire ( both of which have snippets on YouTube and seem to be in pure gag-me-with-a-spoon territory).

Last night we saw a musical version of Daddy LongLegs at the Merrimack Rep and liked it very much. Some might find it too epistolary for the stage or too sweet for 2012, but it wasn’t Shirley Temple and the audience was crazy for it.

John Caird, famous in part for the Royal Shakespeare Theater’s Nicholas Nickleby, wrote the book and directed. Paul Gordon wrote the music and lyrics. Megan McGinnis was the orphan, and Rob Hancock was the benefactor she assumed to be 83 and bald. (Spoiler alert! he isn’t.)

What was surprising was the strong feminist and socialist vibe, which the program notes explain were characteristic of the author. “Webster was actively involved in remedying the plight of the impoverished, not only from a financial standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint as well.” She believed that no matter what the poor had missed out on in their early years (we discussed that here), many could succeed if just given a chance.

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