[StBernard] Expanding higher ed access for low income students

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun May 20 11:39:02 EDT 2007


What you missed was that many people like myself (and I say this with
what I learned talking to people at UNO daily) is that many believe that
college is not in their realm of possibilities. As students would tour the
campus, many took the trip to get out of school, they would come by the
department and say how college, even a city one, was not affordable. They
didn't qualify for TOPS due to grades. There only hope was PELL- which
covers barely tuition. I went to inner city schools where TEACHERS sat in
the corner as me and professor brought FASFA forms, explained that loans
weren't their only options, explained TOPS, explained other possible
programs. DO you know what one teacher said (while we were talking through
this) they're not worth the trouble. Many of these kids, while computer
savvy on some things, had no idea about how to do real research, how to find
grants, scholarships (like for heritage, Vietnam from parents, etc.). These
kids were asking questions, which I thought should have been being taught in
school and that were basic in nature but real questions no one had ever
addressed. And that is exactly what happened in my case. This, this mind you
in a major metropolitan city where resources should have been. This was in
2004. Programs like the one Blanco is providing will help a number of
students who want college but have the world telling them they can't. This
will be in papers in rural areas of the state where some farmer's kid might
now consider college, might ask some questions, might even explore some

You also missed that my parents were not very educated- dad made it to the
8th grade and mom graduated but wanted went off with a biker to
Conneticut....). Had something like this program been on the front pages of
the paper and on the lips of many, I may not have taken that couple of years
off, I may not have married a murderer, and I may not have had my 15 year
old daughter, hell I might not have been in St. Bernard during Katrina. I
wanted to go into medicine, instead now I'm into Political Science. I don't
think I've had a bad life thus far, just kind of lived it a bit backwards. I
like to think that my path went the way it did so that I could help those
kids in that class find a better life, I like to believe that my time UNO
was important when I helped kids who were struggling find grants,
scholarships, and assistance when they would have had to drop out. These
kids had jobs at go no where places, because that's all they knew. I hope I
showed them they didn't need to be stuck in dead end work, even though I
worked part time at Burger King for 14 years. John I would have probably
been eligible for the new program because when I graduated, my dad had been
laid off for over two years and mom worked at Churches, we weren't middle
class by a long shot. Even remember going a few day before graduation to get
food stamps and my mom apologizing because she couldn't give me anything for
graduation. I like to think that even though I have done much better, I have
the unique experience of remembering everyday where I came from. While I
believe that Walter remembers where he came from, he is comfortable enough
not to have to worry about money. To this day, I keep a month of food in my
freezer, my pantry overloaded, and am totally afraid that if I get sick I'll
lose it all, I'm okay just not comfortable.

So while our stories are similar in that we both worked for all we had,
they are far from having the same start. At Jesuit, you made life long
connections, from a very influential school. I graduated from AJ, not being
with the class I started with because two years prior they inter grated the
school and AJ became the magnet school. In 15 years, we have not had one
reunion because the class did not have that close bond that others shared. I
couldn't tell you where anyone is that I graduated with. Like I said before,
I know I'm not the exception, just the one with a big enough voice, and a
long streak of stubborness.


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