Forty times within the last three months I have engaged in conversations with Bay Area black students struggling to stay connected in their college experience. Students express a disconnect made worse by the challenges of not starting a semester with financial stability. Students miss class over gas money or bus fare. They can't afford books they need the first class as opposed to the second week after financial aid is released.
As a result, these students, often the first in their families to attempt college, see their grades fall, become overwhelmed and drop out because it feels like the odds are stacked against them. Last year, I had one student who came to class everyday but was unable to complete his homework because he said, “the lighting is limited in the bushes where I sleep”. Studies show that students who begin college with access to stop-gap financial supports, including for books and transportation, are able to focus on school and progress successfully through semesters. Too often my students are just unable to meet unexpected needs and I do not have access to funds to help them with resources they need, urgently, moment-to-moment. I/we educators reach into our own funds: unfair and never enough. And to add insult to injury, our Umoja Program funding was slashed 50% this year.
In an effort to ensure a present, prepared and engaged start for my 32 English 4 Umoja students (almost entirely under-resourced African-American and Latino youth traveling from Oakland to Chabot College) 17-24 years of age, I wish to purchase AC transit cards as well purchase our first Spring 2020 text: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I will additionally, purchase Bart tickets for students to access the first five weeks of school. For the entire semester, I will purchase other necessary supplies including snacks, printing cards, notebooks, staplers and paper. I will purchase two emergency Trac Phones with limited minutes for students in dire circumstances.
Funded by Oakland, CA (December 2019)