I got a phone call from a former student yesterday - I'll call her "Chantal." Chantal was in my third grade class during the 2000-2001 school year and she is now 19. She just graduated from high school - with a 3.83 GPA. This was a girl who was very angry and had good reason to be. Her dad was 60 when she was born and her mom was in jail and then just uninvolved. She describes her older brother as a "stupid crackhead" and is really upset with him for resorting to drugs. She decided in middle school that education was her only way out of the area and the situation.
I was so excited to hear from her but things are still tough. She desperately wants to go to college and got accepted to Cal State Hayward, but she has absolutely no money. She's been to the financial aid office at a community college and was told that she had to get her dad's information in order to get any aid, but when she asked her dad, he said he wasn't giving her any information.
It's been 18 years or so since I filled out my financial aid forms, but I seem to remember that you had to put down your parents' information even if they weren't going to help pay, at least up until a certain age. Her dad's income (none) won't disqualify her but I'm not sure what she can do if he won't give her any information. In addition, there's the problem of work. Chantal is intelligent and hard-working, but there just aren't any jobs available for a recent high school graduate. It probably doesn't help that she sounds "ghetto" as the kids say. She wants to move out of the projects, which are a bad environment for her on all counts, but no one's hiring. I'm sure this is a common frustration with most young people looking for jobs right now, but as she says, "How am I supposed to get the experience that's required when no one will hire me?" She's applied for everything from warehouse jobs to child care and found nothing.
This is when I wish I was rich. I wish I could pay for her college - either outright or as a loan - but I can't even pay for her to go to a community college unless *I* find more work. I wish I had a business and could hire her. I wish I had more resources. This girl is one of the best investments possible and I just don't have the resources to make the investment.