Dream On

Of all the things I’ve been expected to teach my students over the past several years, none has been more important than to dream big. Whether I’m teaching a novel, an essay, or a movement in history, I’ve always tried to get my students to believe that they will be able to read more, write better, and understand more deeply than they think they can if they work hard and get the support they need.

Now that I serve as college and career counselor, this belief has never been more central to my practice. I want the kids to believe that going to college will be the next best step. They worry about money. I tell them that I will do whatever I can to help them find scholarships. They look at me funny. I ask them to remain hopeful.

It all may sound corny, but I’m not asking them to hold out for miracles. It’s much more calculated than that. I know their GPAs, extracurricular achievements, and financial realities, and I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the scholarship/financial aid landscape. Nothing is guaranteed, but many of the kids have a good shot at significant financial support.

Except for the kids who dream the biggest. The “dreamers” as they’re called. Dreamers who do not qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are viewed by college admissions as international students. They must produce bank statements and pay out of state tuition in order to matriculate.The dreamers I know would be hard pressed to do either. In short, they may as well not apply at all.

I stood in front of my seniors last week and told them “It’s a big week. Every single one of you is going to complete and submit your application to one in-state university.” They are nervous, but beginning to see that this may all be possible. Angel looks up at me from his seat. He knows that I know that he is undocumented and working with an attorney. We had previously discussed not submitting his application until something shifts with his immigration status. His next meeting is in January.

So I tell my students to put their best foot forward, to submit their applications, and to hope. But Angel needs something different. He needs a miracle.


Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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