fbpx
Thursday, October 1, 2020

After the Admissions Scandal, Listening to a Different Group of College Applicants

Giselle grew up in South Los Angeles, just a mile from the University of Southern California, one of the campuses called out in the news last week after federal prosecutors exposed a scheme in which they charged more than 50 people who conspired to cheat the college admissions system.

Giselle’s life couldn’t be more different from those of the teenagers whose wealthy parents allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their kids into elite colleges. But she does share one thing with them: A desperate desire to get into college.

Just days after news of the scandal broke, I spent a weekend with Giselle and 40 other young people at a retreat my summer camp runs for college-bound kids in underserved communities. In contrast to the parents who paid private consultants to create phony versions of their children to impress admissions officers, we were trying to encourage our young people to discover, reveal, and care for the most authentic versions of themselves.

What I heard was overwhelming and inspiring. Giselle, for one, hopes to be the first in her family to attend college. In no position to purchase the effort, she has worked hard for years to earn a 3.92 grade-point average, she has gotten herself to college application workshops, and she has put hours into filling out stacks of paperwork required to apply for financial aid.

“I want to put myself out there by embracing who I am without feeling judged,” said Giselle, who expressed appreciation for the support she got at the retreat. “The boost in confidence made me believe in myself even more, giving me the motivation to apply to colleges despite a fear of rejection.”

In neighborhoods where it’s a stretch to afford an SAT-prep class, let alone hire a high-priced admissions consultant, even thinking about college can be daunting.

“Recently with my senior year experience I have been feeling alone and lost in the college application process,” another student at the retreat said. “It’s been scary.”

On Sunday morning, I took a hike with T, who told me that he feels particularly marginalized. Living with five siblings and his mother, he has no communication with his father.

“As a young black man, I’m constantly told to hide my emotions,” T told me.

He recognizes the destructive behaviors he takes on instead and is trying to find the courage to overcome his fears, make healthy choices, and pursue his passions for running and poetry.

In fact, he has done well enough in track and field to earn an athletic scholarship to a university in another state—the good old-fashioned way. T will need to improve his grades before he can start, and appreciated the time at the retreat to regain focus.

“Camp has been my safe space to quiet the chatter of my mind, expose parts of my inner soul, and give me a push to step out my comfort zone and find peace in a beautiful environment,” he said.

Through efforts like this retreat, my colleagues and I are trying to empower underserved teens to combat the stereotypes and systemic injustices that hold them back. Again and again, I saw them draw on tremendous conviction to tell their stories and share their true selves. Alexander shared how he looks to his Hispanic single mom and Michelle Obama for the motivation he needs to stand up for himself, maintain a high GPA, and pursue veterinary medicine. Desiree, who aims to be a heart surgeon, is excelling at a medical magnet school and a hospital internship, and finding her voice as a young, bisexual black woman.

Fear of failure is a force we must all confront, regardless of socio-economic bracket. As parents, guardians, and educators, we want our kids to be healthy and prepared to survive and thrive in our world despite the challenges.

T, for one, worries that another student will take his spot on the college track team before he can turn his grades around. As we hiked in silence, I feared that his sweat and tears would go to waste while a privileged kid who has never run a lap on the track steps up to the start line in his place.

Still, amid the challenges and setbacks there are remarkable success stories—like Giselle’s. On the very day our retreat began, she reported, she had received acceptance letters from UC Santa Cruz and Cal State Fullerton, bringing her total admissions to nine schools. The headlines may be about fraud and deception, but students like Giselle show what students can do when they dare to be their truest selves.

Dr. Zach Lasker is director of Camp Bob Waldorf, a division of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles. Camp Bob Waldorf provides opportunities to both Jewish and multifaith families in need of financial support and positive role models. 

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Seagram Heiress Clare Bronfman Sentenced to More Than 6 Years in Prison for Involvement in Sex Cult

She was not a member, but was estimated to have spent at least $116 million to help the group, according to The New York Times.

The Significance of Aesthetics in Judaism: Sukkot, 5781

We appreciate our Jewish heritage for a long list of reasons. It gives us a sense of identity, links us to our community, past,...

Sisters, Secrets and Shivah in the Novel ‘Evening’

Nessa Rapoport tells her tales with utter clarity and dignity, and yet her prose also is charged with energy, emotion and sly humor.

Jewish Groups Praise Newsom for Vetoing Ethnic Studies Bill

Newsom said he vetoed it because the latest draft "still needs revision."

Five Trends Jews Should Watch For in the Election

As I watched the disturbing Trump-Biden debate on September 29, I couldn’t help but think about the ways that Jewish voters would react and what that will mean for the election.

‘I’m Not Going to Get Stuck’: Ahead of the Election, Growing Numbers of US Jews Consider Leaving

An immigration lawyer in Toronto said that she has seen a spike inquiries from American Jews about moving to Canada.

Prop. 20 Will Take California Backwards

As I reflect on the meaning of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday centered around forgiveness and reconciliation, I become deeply concerned about Proposition 20, an initiative on California’s November ballot that seems to contradict these principles.

Courage Is Found in Taking Off Our Masks

Yes, we all wear masks. And yes, those masks can protect us. But they also can  become barriers to the light that is within.

Israeli President Calls Swastika Graffiti in Britain on Yom Kippur ‘Shocking’

"Words of condemnation are not enough. We need #Holocaust education and remembrance."

Culture

Sisters, Secrets and Shivah in the Novel ‘Evening’

Nessa Rapoport tells her tales with utter clarity and dignity, and yet her prose also is charged with energy, emotion and sly humor.

Coastal Roots Farm’s Creates Drive-Thru Sukkot Event

This year, the farm's Sukkot Harvest Festival will look a little different because of COVID-19.

‘The Keeper’ Features a Soccer Star, a Rabbi and War Guilt  

It is fitting that “The Keeper,” set post-World War II when people and nations across the globe were groping for a new normalcy, is opening in the Los Angeles area in the virtual format that has become our new reality.

AJU’S Brandeis-Bardin Campus Provides Weekend Getaways for Sukkot

As Jews continue to navigate celebrating the holidays, American Jewish University (AJU) is creating unique, family-friendly, socially distanced getaways.

Nefesh Community Explores How to Become an Anti-Racist

Organizers say this is part of an ongoing dialogue about anti-racism, in tandem with the Tikkun Collective, the wing of the Nefesh community working with other organizations around specific campaigns and social issues.

Latest Articles
Latest

Seagram Heiress Clare Bronfman Sentenced to More Than 6 Years in Prison for Involvement in Sex Cult

She was not a member, but was estimated to have spent at least $116 million to help the group, according to The New York Times.

The Significance of Aesthetics in Judaism: Sukkot, 5781

We appreciate our Jewish heritage for a long list of reasons. It gives us a sense of identity, links us to our community, past,...

Sisters, Secrets and Shivah in the Novel ‘Evening’

Nessa Rapoport tells her tales with utter clarity and dignity, and yet her prose also is charged with energy, emotion and sly humor.

Jewish Groups Praise Newsom for Vetoing Ethnic Studies Bill

Newsom said he vetoed it because the latest draft "still needs revision."

Five Trends Jews Should Watch For in the Election

As I watched the disturbing Trump-Biden debate on September 29, I couldn’t help but think about the ways that Jewish voters would react and what that will mean for the election.

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 91: Gaining Strength During Holidays

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. How Jewish holidays offer ideal "timeouts" for healing and growth. How do we manage our lives during the...

Pandemic Times Episode 90: Yom Kippur in a Pandemic Can Be Our Most Meaningful

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. Reflections from Rabbi Mordecai Finley on going deep on Judaism's holiest day. How do we manage our lives...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x