Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 16 2012

It Takes A Village



Since January, I have been working with a student on a national scholarship application. She’s a phenomenal student and person. Granted, I have only been teaching 2 years, but all teachers know of her as a leader. She is at the top of her class socially and academically, but not in one of those “popular girls” ways. She is friends with all, respected by all, and spends about as much time in tutoring as the teachers do. She genuinely cares about her peers’ mental and academic success.


January through February was a mini-application, where she was deemed top out of the Valley applicants. Due to some higher-ups good-natured but misguided efforts to encourage us to get a “head start” on application, half of what we slaved over was useless when the real application came out. But, to be positive, half of it could be recycled.


From the end of February, until now, we have been working on the real application. Like any good high-achieving student, and like her teacher, she is a procrastinator, and with the application due today, well, let’s just say we both have spent over 9 hours on this application in the past 3 days.

The application was crazy-intense, with just as many essays from her math & ELA teachers & her parents as her.

Now, something interesting. This is a scholarship for 7th graders with demonstrated financial need (of the 60 applicants last year, the average income was $20,000) and a proven will to succeed. She has both. But the application can only be submitted in English. And her parents speak primarily Spanish.

This required her getting all the necessary information from her parents and then translating it into English. Even then, it’s difficult for a 7th grader to write about herself, so I became a surrogate mother for part of the application.

After, there were 4 pages of complicated financial information which her parents were supposed to complete. After struggling to figure out the information with her parents, she asked me b/c duh any competent adult should know this information.  I had to call MY father to get this information clarified because I don’t even understand it all. Luckily he loves me a lot, and he stayed on the phone with me for about 30 minutes to get everything figured out.

Other teachers helped to read the application, the counselor had to fill out forms, another adult reference had to be solicited, and she herself had to submit essays.


We did everything to the best of our ability, and I really believe she has a competitive chance at this award. But it seems counter to the scholarship’s purpose for it to be this inaccessible. If she had not had people to advocate for her…..she could not have completed this form.


And yet, she is the ideal candidate who this scholarship was supposedly created for – intelligent, self-starter, full of potential, sophisticated maturity…


Frustrations about the hypocrisy of the application process aside, I am thankful that we had a village and we accomplished the task, thus reinforcing the idea that a child’s life is a cumulative product of the many factors of their environment.



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