Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hours with Alice

Alice, who is Andrew's girlfriend you'll recall, went with me to pick up Andrew. I picked her up at her house at 5:00pm. I got a big hug from her older sister who used to work as an aid in Roland's class, a greeting from her mom, and a joyful smile from her one-year-younger sister. (I forget exactly what her disability is, but she used to be one of Roland's students. She is slowly getting better at focusing on a board that will say things for her. Mostly I just get smiles.)

Anyway, I wanted to pick some things up at the co-op in The City so we left early. We allowed room for traffic, which was not a problem, so we spent a lot of time wandering around the co-op. We discussed the value of knowing that there was FINALLY somewhere we could reliably purchase rice cakes with seaweed in them, and marveled at the large, hand-carved wooden corn cob holders. You know, because sometimes the cheap plastic ones shaped like corn cobs just aren't enough.

Andrew's plane was late so we had a long time to sit and talk. I regaled her with my story about Kindle customer service. We talked about Andrew's character flaws, and we talked about her college plans. I feel so badly for the poor girl.

She really wants to go to the art institute. I've mentioned it before. I spoke with someone who teaches at my college who says that this is a particularly good one. It is a for-profit school which means things like they don't have much financial aid and most of the courses are taught by adjuncts. The school is located in a place where there are a lot of people working in the industry she is interested in, so they tend to get people who really know their area. So, it is what it is. And her desire to go there is sincere and, I am now convinced, quite independent of wanting to be with Andrew. She would have wanted to go there even if he wasn't there.

Sadly it is just so expensive. She got a Pell grant and a Stafford loan. They told her that she qualifies for work study money but they won't tell her how much she can earn until she registers for classes and she can't register for classes until she has a financial plan worked out. So apparently, they don't want work study money to be part of the financial plan. Right now she is something like $14,000 shy, and that is for the first year. Her mother can't help more than she is, and her father won't help.

She got emotional when she told me how hard everyone is working trying to come up with ideas and she feels horrible about disappointing everyone, like she just got their hopes up for nothing.

Anyway, if she can't go, and it looks increasingly like she can't, it makes most sense to her that she just stay, live with her mom and take courses at the community college. This summer she has a part time job working as her sister's one-on-one at the summer program ("It's great. The best job ever. I have been taking care of her my whole life and now they are paying me to do what I would be doing anyway") and the program has offered her a job during the school year too, although it may or may not be working with her sister. She had some anxiety about telling me this, but she said that Andrew had said that if she couldn't come to a school where he is then he could just come back and go to school here.

We both think it is the wrong decision for him. He could go to the school where I teach but it is much, much smaller and he is interested in subjects too close to my areas. It has the potential to be too awkward. He loves the school he is at. He loves the city he is in. I don't think that he realizes that telling her that if she can't come to him, he will come back here affects her rather like him saying, "If you don't come here, I will jump off a cliff."

She says he doesn't understand, and he doesn't. Though I don't think of myself as rich, I know we are secure and for her family that is rich. He was incredibly lucky to have both a grandfather-funded college fund that he doesn't hardly need to tap AND a full-tuition scholarship that he got because his mom is a professor. His college fund pays for his room and board. Mom and Dad buy his books and plane tickets. I give him a small allowance for laundry -- no more than he got when he was in high school. He spends almost none of it. He doesn't feel spoiled. Other students are spending large amounts of money on things, and he spends nothing.

But he also has never had to worry. He has never even considered that he might not have the money to go to the school that he wanted to go to. On one hand he seems to me to be unspoiled. Unlike some of my children's friends, he never complained about not getting designer jeans, or expensive shoes. He didn't get his own car like some of the kids he was friends with. The video equipment he got was almost all stuff he bought used with money he saved from allowances and gifts. He has been happy with that and not wanted more. On the other hand, he has quite honestly got everything he has ever really wanted. He really isn't very good at accepting that one of the things he really wants (his girlfriend going to the college she wants to go to in the same city as the college he wants to go to) might not happen.

Of course one of the reasons it is difficult is the same reason it is difficult for me. This is what she wants. In our society it ought to be possible for students to go to the colleges they want to go to (I'm ignoring my whole issue with for-profits at the moment).

I was glad she was able to talk to me about it. I wish there was something I could do.


  1. It's really frustrating to be unable to help teens (anyone really) realize their dreams. I feel like I've got a scholarship/grant niggling in the back of my mind. If I can remember what it is I'm thinking about, I'll be back.

  2. This is probably way away from where she wants to go or where y'all live, but Berea College in KY is basically free. You work on campus and grants can cover room & board plus books.

  3. Thanks for the support FosteringDreams & M4M.

    It turns out that she didn't do some of the basic things you need to do to apply for a lot scholarships, like take the SAT. She's signed up for it in September. She has a level of anxiety about the whole process that is getting in her way.


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