RELATED ISSUEWhere do young people come down on questions of faith, values, and public life? How do they relate their values to public policy issues including education, economic inequality, and the environment? These questions, critically important for the 2012 election, are at the center of a campus conversation being organized by the Berkley Center and Georgetown University. This blog features an ongoing conversation about these issues between students selected as Millennial Values Fellows through a national competition. You can read and comment on their blogs here.
To learn more about the project, visit the Campus Conversation on Values page.
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AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: EDUCATION
Ala Ahmad (University of Texas-Austin) on Educational Opportunity
March 23, 2012
Nataly returned to college after she dropped out because of the realization that she “can’t do anything in this country” without a degree. Nataly’s struggle reminds me of my own in my fall semester of my senior year as an undergraduate. I realized that I couldn’t make the impact I wanted to make without a master degree or a PhD. I decided to apply to The University of Texas, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs. In pursuing a Master's degree, I take advantage of many opportunities. Growing up in a sheltered immigrant family, I have to actively pursue what I want.
Recognizing the importance of education in my life, I wanted to help students achieve success through their education. I began volunteering with Faruha House in Austin and its after school-tutoring program. Faruha House offers “culturally competent” services such as education, family, and legal help. They expanded their mission to include the increasing Iraqi refugee community in Austin.
As a volunteer, I help four to five Iraqi freshmen in high school with their homework. I tutor in Arabic, allowing them to bridge what they have learned in school prior to moving to the United States with what they are learning today. There are a lot of struggles that go along with learning a new language and a new system at 14-16 years of age. My students are behind by several years in math and other subjects. Hence, the tutoring is particularly crucial to helping them achieve success.
Americans have recently become disenchanted with achievement and learning, claiming that we are the 99% and that no matter how much we achieve, the 1% will always own everything. On the individual level, an Iraqi or Ecuadorian immigrant’s only chance at success in the US is to go to college and take advantage of educational opportunities for success. As an immigrant, I know that my undergraduate degree and my pursuit of a Master''s degree will help me make an impact.
Lucas Hernandez (Rollins College) comments on Ala Ahmad March 26, 2012
The issue of immigrants and the pursuit of an education in the US is one of great complexity and many overlooked factors. I led a service-learning trip to Miami observing these same issues where we got a comprehensive view of the topic. Although I am sure you are aware, something that I feel is important to be included in this discussion, and which isn't in your post is the high school experience of these students. Immigrants generally attend public schools in lower income communities. This means that the quality of their education is very poor. Additionally, because the funding for their schools are so low they are unable to offer a sufficient number of AP/IB courses for their students. So as many bright students at nicer public schools or private schools can inflate their GPA to the 4.8 area, even the most intelligent of illegal immigrant student could never get to that level. Although affirmative action helps in this regard, for immigrant children the odds are already stacked so highly against them that this added disadvantage only contributes to their dropping out of high school or simply finding work following high school graduation.
Shalini Allam (Rollins College) comments March 26, 2012
I completely agree! As a first generation American, my parents and I have had to learn that people really do need higher education in order to become successful. My dad came to America as a doctor with a medical degree from Jamaica. When he first came here it was acceptable that he could come from outside schools and still practice in the US. Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore. Students must attend a U.S. medical school in order to be successful. It is truly great that you help these children transition in the best way possible — through education. Our society is really shifting and becoming more competitive than ever before.