The Borneo Post - Good English
Michelle Obama and a community college grad shared a stage and a message
how some enroll roll in college, but then don’t show up. The phenomenon is called “summer melt,” as if they just disappear. In some communities, it is estimated that 40%of students who intend to go to college nevershow up to their classes.
We don’t often talk about the challenges that will come at unexpected moments for some of those students. Maybe a family member will try to pull them back. Maybe the phrase “office hours” will feel foreign and intimidating.
I remember the moment I realized how underprepared my background had left me for college. During my freshman year, a professor asked me to stay after class. Once the room emptied, he handed me an essay I had written and said, “If you ever do this again, I will have to dock your grade.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, until I looked at the paper and saw the words “double space” underlined. Multiple times.
I had turned in a 10-page single-spaced essay, instead of a 10-page double-spaced essay. He thought I was trying to show off. The truth was that before coming to college, I didn’t have regular access to a computer, so I had no idea that double-space existed. I also didn’t think to ask anyone. At the time, the only person in my family who had a college degree was my older sister.
I didn’t tell my professor any of that, of course. I just assured him it wouldn’t happen again. I realize now that was a mistake.
We should talk openly about our different lifeexperiences, because it’s not enough that admission numbers reflect diversity. College graduation numbers should, too.
At the “Beating the Odds Summit,” which took place in a Howard University auditorium on Tuesday, the students who had been picked to attend received advice, warnings and encouragement. They were reminded that they were changing the trajectory of not just their own lives, but also their family’s lives. The event marked the fifth anniversary for the Summit, which was started by Michelle Obama during her time in the White House.
“You are exactly where you belong,” Wes Moore, who grew up in Baltimore and is now the CEO of Robin Hood, an anti-poverty nonprofit, told the students.
“Everywhere that you are, you are not there because of someone’s benevolence,” he said. “You are not there because of a social experiment. You are not there because someone wants to sprinkle diversity into a room. You’re there because that room would be incomplete if you weren’t there. You’re there because that conversation would be weak if your voice was not included.”
Moore later led the panel in which Ventura-Lazo shared the stage with NFL player Malcolm Jenkins, University of Washington graduate Rachel McKenzie and Obama.
As they waited to walk onto the stage, Ventura-Lazo said that Obama helped calm his nerves. She assured him that it was just going to be a casual conversation. “She said, ‘You have such a great story,’ “the 29-year-old told me afterward. “She said, ‘These students need to hear your story because they’re just like you.’ “They are also just like her. Obama is a first-generation college student as well.
“I see myself in you all,” she told the students. “I was where you all were.”
“I know all of you sitting there, no matter how much you may front, there is a part of you that is wondering whether this is a mistake, and whether I belong and whether I can do this,” she said. “Because those were the messages that I had going on in my head, and they still come up through life . . . Those demons are deep in us. And we live in a country that sometimes wants you to feel that way. They want you to feel like you don’t belong.”
She then assured them: “This is not a mistake.”
She told them they were “more than capable” and reminded them that they had already overcome “some deep, dark obstacles.”
“So, now, I want you to walk onto those campuses, and fake some confidence, OK?” she said. “Because you’re going to be faking it for a while. It’s OK. We’re all faking it. Your classmates are faking it, too.”
Before Obama finished talking, she spoke about Ventura-Lazo and the others sitting onstage with her.
“We have some examples here of young people who were just where you are five years ago,” she said. “And it wasn’t always easy, but they made it through.” — WP-Bloomberg