Sunday, September 09, 2007

Success...without my help

I'm sad, disappointed, and somewhat perplexed today.

I get excited about kids going off to college and am amazed by their perserverance and determination. I know they have so many dreams that they want to fulfill. But the complexities of poverty seems to keep getting in the way.

While some of the young adults I know are continuing to perservere in their college education, I have talked to three in the last few weeks who are not, for various reasons--all financially related.

Situation #1: Student decides to go to a private school. As she gets ready to enter her senior year, she can now no longer find no one to co-sign for her loan (because each semester she exhausts all of the loans that can be received in her name). She refuses to go any "less" of a university and insists on completing her private school education. Therefore, she is not enrolled in school this semester.

Situation #2: Student is going to a community college where financial aid takes care of his college expenses. Last semester he ended up dropping a class or two because the promotion he took at his job and the money associated with it became more important. This semester he is not going to school. He says it's financial, but refuses to tell me more.

Situation #3: Student is going to a 4-year university. He failed a class last semester. He said it wasn't like he didn't try, but the class was very difficult for him. Because he failed that class (in addition to getting low grades previously as well), financial aid would not pay for his classes this semester. They have told him he needs to sit out a semester.

I'm sure there are more situations...some that I don't even know about yet. Part of me is frustrated because they refuse to listen. I know that each of them have (or had) cell phones. I know that one bought a car and a "system" to go along with it. I know that one has an addiction to Jordan tennis shoes and always has nice, new clothes. I know that one works minimal hours, even when on school breaks.

Each have told me in so many words, "You don't understand," and none of them will explain to me what I don't understand. Each of them have decided that they will work this out on their own. I wonder if they play on the fact that they know "you don't understand" bothers me. I realize I don't understand their life--what it has been or what it is. But I also know that I have learned something about saving and spending money. I have learned stuff about how the financial aid system works.

I have read and heard what people say about how important "things" are to someone who hasn't had the opportunity to have a lot of "things" throughout their life. As people have told me, maybe it's easier for me to give up "things" because I've always had them. I know that each of the three I mentioned have had to go without things and make difficult decisions on what they get/don't get. I also know that each of them have contributed to making bad loans to friends and family with money they receive from financial aid.

I worry about them. I worry about their decision to buy shoes or pay for $50-$75/month cell phones and not understanding that every little bit they spend on "things" takes away from the money they need to survive, pay for college, etc. I worry that they will "make it," but that they will continue just "getting by." I worry that their "getting by" now will result in them becoming one of the statistics who don't ever complete college. I worry that the times I have helped them financially because I wanted them to have similar opportunities and access as other kids has really just been a bottomless pit that hasn't done anything to help...and may have even done some harm. They aren't like all of the other kids; their obstacles are often greater...but not impossible.

I don't know that there is any way I can help them because they will no longer allow me in. They don't always like what I have to say so I guess that's why they have decided they will figure it out on their own.

I hope and pray they do. I hope that their decision to figure it out on their own doesn't result in them being stuck in an endless cycle. I hope they go to wise people to find the answers they need. I hope they choose to access the many resources available in our communities, offered by so many non-profits (free classes such as budgeting, home-buying, scholarship opportunities, etc.--from what I've seen, most people often *don't* access these classes even when they say it's something they want and need...I have yet to figure out why.).

Recognizing when and how to let go.... boy, that's difficult.

Success is so much sweeter when it is accomplished without outside help. I pray that they succeed according to whatever standards they have set for themselves. I pray that they will ask for help if/when they need it. I pray that I will accept whatever they decide and will recognize the balance of pushing them and letting go.
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