College Money Chronicles
The beginning of the school year is tough for me. As a mom I always want to make sure that my girls start the year with their best foot forward. As an educator I want to bring the best version of myself to the classroom and counseling office. As a wife
I want to ensure that I am not overlooking the needs of my husband as it starts to get busier outside of home. This year has been particularly trying. With all mentioned above we are also in the midst of a 6+ month-long home renovation from heaven (because
saying hell gives negative energy and ain't nobody got time for that!) We are in constant motion with syncing schedules, appointments, dance practice, tutoring sessions, hair appointments, back to school nights, drop-offs and pick-ups. It's a whirlwind. Right
in the midst I received the opportunity to attend a national conference in Boston where I had the pleasure of presenting to a large audience. I was extremely excited, but also apprehensive. The conference took place right at the very beginning of the school
year. I'd be away from home for 3 days. Away from my students and my family. What would they do? With all the apprehension I still went. Had a great time! Learned so much. Brought back a ton of resources and guess what? Everyone survived. Well almost.
At home everyone was great. Me? My presentation was amazing! The feedback has been stellar. For my very first time presenting on a national stage I was very composed and confident. On the last day of the conference the unimaginable happened, I fell. Hard.
I fell off the shuttle bus right in front of the convention center. I was taken to a Boston ER. Thankfully nothing was broken but I do have a bad sprain on my right foot. Wheelchair, crutches, aircast you name it. That is my current state. See with all my
apprehension and fear of leaving my family and work at a high stakes time I ended up harming myself. I spent so much energy focusing on their well-being, their needs, wants, anticipating their desires that I overlooked the most important person in my journey..
myself. So I wrap this up by saying yes this is a busy time of my life. Every year it is but I must do a much better job of caring for the one person who makes it all happen. ME!
This story was originly posted in September 2015 in esponse. To the Philadelphia Magazine school choice article...
I feel the entire choice process is admirable, yet incredibly flawed and ultimately an unfortunate disservice to our children.
As a life long Philadelphian I have attended Philly schools where I was pleased with the education and environment (parochial elementary and magnet high school). My parents selected the schools and helped me to apply and gain admission. The process was not
nearly as daunting then as it is not. I fully believe that I would have attended a charter school had they been around in the late 80s as my parents were looking for an alternative moreso to the negative influential environment that existed within our neighborhood
schools. Fast forward to last year I had two daughters who both would be entering a new grade/school the following year. There was so much choice within the city of Philadelphia and we as a family explored every option. My oldest was entering high school coming
from a small charter school which offered tremendous support we were concerned about her getting lost in a bigger school. Likewise she has a strong interest in the sciences and we wanted to immerse her in an environment that she felt comfortable learning.
She is lucky enough to have a "3 parent team" and we worked together to make sure she would be in a comfortable educational environment. She applied to 7-10 schools public and charter. After the entire process she was waitlisted for 4, and denied the rest.
The processes for public schools were transparent, but the pool of decent learning environments for our child was very small. We advocated for here directly to the schools and submitted additional information at the school's request to no avail. Luckily we
have a tremendous support system because at the same time my youngest was going into Kindergarten. Since the age of two I researched every available educational option for her within the city. Public, Private, Parochial, Charter. I had a list of schools picked
out to apply to by the time she was three. Once the year started I began reaching out to schools, attending open houses, tours, info sessions and collecting applications. Each school had different processes and we had a filing system to keep track of materials,
dates and deadlines. In the end we applied to more than 13 schools in Philadelphia. The public application process was the most straightforward having you complete one application for schools with available spaces, however many of the schools on my original
list were not included on the application. When I inquired I was given the blanket answer that those particular schools did not participate in the lottery process. This was disheartening, but we pressed forward. Due to my schooling we applied a parochial school,
but applied to a number of charter schools. We considered a number of private schools, but narrowed down to one because the application process for each was so expensive. She initially got into 2 of the 13 schools. One public which was very far from our home
and work and one private which did not give us financial aid. After an exhausting yearlong ordeal with both girls we decided as a family which schools they would attend. With very limited options in the spring of 2015 we considered moving out of Philadelphia
to an immediate suburb just for the chance at a better, less stressful educational system for both girls. In May 2015 my oldest daughter's charter school excepted a small cohort of students into its new 9th grade academy, she being one. In June we received
a call from a notable charter that my youngest daughter was selected to attend from the waiting list. It felt like hitting the lottery. Up until that point we were really at a lost as to what we were going to do. We considered changing/quitting jobs, moving
out of Philadelphia and many other lifestyle changes just for the chance at a good education for our girls. The process was stressful and unfair. After years of research, applications, test scores and countless parent visits, calls and appointments nothing
ensured that our children got into a good school. It all boiled down to luck. It was exhausting for an involved parent, but what about kids that don't have parental involvement? It just breaks my heart to think about the hundreds of thousands of children in
the city that are just going to school without an advocate for better quality education. This process opened my eyes so much wider to the issues plaguing the Philadelphia School system in general and I include all types of schools in that description. It simply
is not fair. Good education should be the luck of the draw. Good education should not depend on how connected or wealthy your family is. The process did teach me that we all have to be involved in education for our children's sake. Though enlightening to those
that have not had to engage in the school choice process just yet, the article is too lighthearted and does not address the fact that the only guaranteed school for a child in Philadelphia is their catchment area public neighborhood school and all too often
that is not a place where children are thriving educationally. On the surface it seems as if we have ample school choice, but in the end the choices aren't always the ones you want.
My two cents.
Imagine providing all of your students the tools they need to be successful after high school graduation.
They are intelligent, responsible, self-sufficient individuals.
They are leaders within their communities.
They plan to go off to college to further their reach within the world.
But alas, they don't have the money.
They were sold the dream of attending college only to find out they are not able toafford the school of their dreams.
They completed the FAFSA and state grant, even accepted federal student loans yet still fall short.
Is this how the story ends?
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The Black women in my circle are amazing. Like really really amazing. Everyday I find new inspiration in the things that we contribute to this world. Beginning with my mother who tirelessly showed us a shining example of a working wife and mother. To my sister who is so creative effortlessly that she doesn't even know her own strength and that humbles me. To my best friends who show me the true value of not only friendship but being employed multifaceted adults. Working mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives. To my work sisters who I can have multi level conversations with about social class, race, politics, favoritism. These women are principals, administrators, business owners, they are creative gurus, social workers, nurses, grad school student, doctors. They are human resource Analysts, single moms, working moms. They are daughters, sisters, mothers. They are world travelers. They are community organizers, caregivers. They are the epitome of strength. When I think of my journey and the various obstacles I've had to overcome due to race, sex and social and financial status I think of all the other influential African American woman in my circle and just beyond my circle. I see their achievements. I see their care. I see how we support one another and see how we empower one another. I see how we uplift one another and I tell myself that with this group of women anything can and will be possible. That with this group of women I can achieve anything. Women that I pray with. Women I can cry with. Women I can go to in times of need. Times of fear. Times of uncertainty. Women I can go to when I just need a hug. Some reassurance that everything I'm doing is not in vain. By saying that we can do anything it is not merely a statement, but rather a lifestyle to which I choose to subscribe. I believe in my African American sister. I believe in our power. I believe in our purpose. I believe in our drive. I believe in us. If you are in my circle connected in any way I thank you. I love you and may God continue to bless you and all that you do! I am that much better by being connected to you. Strong, Black, intelligent, wise...