“PERSONAL STATEMENT”

Three teens aspire to become the first in their family to go to college. We have their “Personal Statement.” For more information, click here. 

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired November 26, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> ONE OF THE MAIN BARRIERS KEEPING LOW INCOME STUDENTS OUT OF COLLEGE IS THE LACK OF SCHOOL COUNSELORS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, LEAVING MANY OF THE KIDS ON THEIR OWN TO NEGOTIATE APPLICATIONS, FINANCIAL FORMS, AND THE PERSONAL STATEMENTS.

THOSE ESSAYS MOST NEED TO SUBMIT AS PART OF THEIR APPLICATIONS.

TO COMBAT THE GUIDANCE GAP, MANY SCHOOLS TURNED TO PEER COLLEGE COUNSELORS.

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO ARE APPLYING TO COLLEGE THEMSELVES.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY, PERSONAL STATEMENT, FOLLOWING THROUGH BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO ASSUMED THAT RESPONSIBILITY, EVEN AS THEY NAVIGATE THEIR OWN SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES.

HERE'S A LOOK.

WE STARTED TO LOOK AT SOME OF THE DATA IN SOME SCHOOLS, 700 STUDENTS HAD ONE GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.

THREE HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS REALIZED THAT GETTING INTO COLLEGE IS GOING TO BE TOUGH.

SHE'S LIKE, YOU MIGHT NOT GET ACCEPTED ANYWHERE.

THEIR SCHOOLS HAVE FEW RESOURCES.

THEIR FAMILIES OFTEN CANNOT HELP.

BUT THEY'RE DETERMINED.

[ SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE ]

AS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE, CHASING THE DREAM, POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA, WE'RE NOW JOINED BY JULIAN DRESNER.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID THIS DOCUMENTARY COME ABOUT?

WHAT DID YOU DECIDE TO ATTACK THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT?

AS YOU KNOW, COLLEGE ACCESS AND EDUCATIONAL INEQUITY ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES OF OUR TIMES.

I WAS INTERESTED IN MAKING A FILM THAT ADDRESSED THOSE ISSUES.

AND WHEN I LEARNED THAT THERE WERE YOUNG PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY WHO WERE STEPPING UP TO FILL THE COLLEGE GUIDANCE GAP IN THEIR SCHOOLS BY WORKING AS PEER COLLEGE COUNSELORS, I THOUGHT WHAT BETTER WAY TO UNDERSTAND THE BARRIERS THAT THEY FACE BY FOLLOWING YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAD TAKEN IT UPON THEMSELVES TO BECOME THE VERY RESOURCE THAT THEY DIDN'T HAVE ACCESS TO, COLLEGE COUNSELING, AND TO FOLLOW THEM AS THEY TRIED TO SURMOUNT THOSE BARRIERS, NOT ONLY FOR THEMSELVES, BUT FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEIR CLASSMATES, AS WELL.

THE KIDS ARE AWESOME, AND WE'LL SPEAK ABOUT THEM IN A SECOND.

BUT PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY PAYING FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS SEEMS TO BE SUCH A LOW PRIORITY IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

IT DOESN'T SEEM TO MAKE SENSE.

FIRST OF ALL, I JUST WANT TO POINT OUT THAT THIS IS A NATIONAL ISSUE, IT'S NOT JUST A NEW YORK CITY PROBLEM.

THAT WAS GOING TO BE A QUESTION.

MOST PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN OUR COUNTRY DON'T HAVE ANY COLLEGE COUNSELORS.

THEY OFTEN HAVE SCHOOL COUNSELORS, BUT THOSE SCHOOL COUNSELORS DO A LOT OF -- TAKE ON A LOT OF DIFFERENT IMPORTANT ROLES.

IN ADDITION TO COLLEGE COUNSELING.

THE AVERAGE SCHOOL COUNSELOR HAS ABOUT 22% OF THEIR TIME TO FOCUS ON COLLEGE COUNSELING.

BUT THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS THING IS THE RATIO OF STCHOOL COUNSELORS TO STUDENTS IS 1 TO 490.

THAT IS SOMETHING THAT EVEN THOUGH THERE IS A NATIONAL DIALOGUE ABOUT THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP, ABOUT COLLEGE ACCESS IN GENERAL, FOLKS ARE NOT REALLY FOCUSING ON THE FACT THAT WE ARE NOT PROVIDING COLLEGE COUNSELING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS WHERE IT'S ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS THAT ARE EDUCATING YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WOULD BE THE FIRST GENERATION TO GO TO COLLEGE IF THEY WERE TO GET THERE.

LOW INCOME STUDENTS.

95% OF ALL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS HAVE COLLEGE ASPIRATIONS.

BUT ONLY ABOUT 16% OF LOW INCOME STUDENTS ARE GETTING A COLLEGE DEGREE, EVEN THOUGH 95% SAY THEY WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE, IT'S ONLY 16%. AND ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS THAT WE'RE OFTEN NOT FOCUSING ON, BUT WE HOPE THE FILM WILL SHED LIGHT ON, WE ARE NOT PROVIDING THE COLLEGE COUNSELING THAT STUDENTS NEED WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL, BECAUSE THE COLLEGE PROCESS, ESPECIALLY THE FINANCIAL AID PROCESS, IS MORE COMPLICATED NOW THAN EVER.

WE SEE THAT IN YOUR FILM, BUT WHEN YOU SAY FOLKS AREN'T FOCUSED ON THIS, WHAT FOLKS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, THAT SOMEBODY LIKE ME IS NOT FOCUSED ON IT, BUT THAT TEACHERS AREN'T FOCUSED ON IT?

THAT SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS AREN'T FOCUSED ON IT?

IT MAKES NO SENSE, AND AFTER -- BUT PEOPLE SEE OUR FILM, AND THEY HEAR THESE STATISTICS, AND THAT THE AVERAGE RATIO IS ONE COUNSELOR TO 490 FOLKS, THEIR JAWS DROP.

BUT THEY HAVE NOT HEARD THE STATISTIC BEFORE.

PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY NOT AWARE OF IT.

SO THE FOLKS WHO ARE MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT WHERE WE PUT OUR RESOURCES FOR EDUCATION, WHAT IS FUNDED, WHAT ISN'T FUNDED IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, THOSE ARE THE FOLKS WHO WE HOPE WILL SEE THE FILM AND WILL RETHINK THIS.

ONE ANALOGY THAT I USE IS THAT, YOU KNOW, IMAGINE IF -- THIS IS NOT HARD TO IMAGINE, YOU NEED TO KNOW MATH TO GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL.

BUT IMAGINE IF WE SAID YOU NEED TO KNOW MATH, BUT WE'RE NOT GOING TO FUND MATH TEACHERS.

MAYBE SOMEBODY AT HOME CAN TEACH YOU MATH.

FIGURE IT OUT, YOU NEED IT TO GRADUATE, BUT IT'S ESSENTIALLY THE SITUATION WE HAVE WITH COLLEGE COUNSELING.

IT'S AN IMPORTANT FILM.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING IT AND JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT IT.

THANK YOU.

PERSONAL STATEMENT WILL AIR ON WNET 13.

PLEASE CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS FOR AIR TIMES.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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