One thing I have learned to appreciate as my formal education continues is my status as a documented citizen of the United States. Those with access to privilege often forget that they have it, and even as someone without a great deal of it, I must still acknowledge it when I see it.
As a product of the Newark Public Schools system and an assistant coach with the Jersey Urban Debate League, I have been exposed to students from an array of cultural and racial backgrounds, from the mid-aged members of our generation to the youngest. Many of the kids I went to school with, coached in debate and met during my time in college are locked out of a chance for higher education because they’re parents made a decision to give them a better life.
For undocumented students, basic privileges like scholarships and in-state tuition rates are denied to those who are Americans in every other way. Thanks to some high profile cases of talented students being overcharged and even deported, senators are learning what college students have known for a long time – a college education is too expensive and not enough Americans are graduating. Many students who could work in empty jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields are turned away from schools they are scholastically qualified to attend.
I find myself musing over the idea of dropping out all the time, but then I remember the opportunity I’ve been given. It’s ironic – many who could go to school now are disinterested, and those who wish they could attend aren’t allowed. Americans can’t complain about our economy and lackluster competitiveness against new kids on the block like China, Russia and Uganda until we take the time to get our own house in order.
Schools from hugely impacted areas such as Florida, like the University of Miami, have pushed for reform, but every semester that passes is a semester when countless numbers of students give up hope.
Schools like Emporia State could be the home of some of the greatest minds in the world, but we need comprehensive immigration reform first.