Emma Margraf spoke at today’s State Board of Education meeting and submitted testimony similar to the blog post below.
By Emma Margraf
Last week Jane came in the house with a big envelope in her hand saying, “Mooooommmm….” in a hesitant voice. The envelope was from the college she wants to attend.
I told her that it might just be a mailing, because her application hadn’t been complete for very long. They have a rolling admissions process, so we didn’t know. I watched her open it and read the first few lines of the letter that came in the envelope and then handed it to me looking like she didn’t understand what was happening.
I read the first few lines—they started with, “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”—and when she saw my face, Jane started jumping up and down.
Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since.
Jane has struggled with all of her grades and has never been able to pull up her math grades or test scores. She’s been told over and over again to go to junior college or to sign up for job training programs.
But that’s not what she wanted, and those options were not right for her.
I never took the approach of trying to dissuade Jane from her dreams. I recruited some amazing people to support her. I made a list of the requirements and put them on the wall. Jane went to SAT prep classes. Jane wrote her essay and asked five different people to read it and give her feedback. Jane and I practiced interview questions a number of times.
Fewer than two out of five foster kids graduate from high school in Washington—let alone go to college. Once you get to college, the government is happy to pay for quite a bit of public school costs. But there’s little support to get there.
The implication of the lack of support is that you should be sure that it’s worth it. You should be absolutely confident that you are worth investing in, and that if you aren’t totally sure, you shouldn’t waste people’s time and money. More teachers, social workers, and administrators than I can count have told me that Jane should go to community college for a few years to “get used to college” and to “prove she can do college-level work.” Now I reply that she got into college and that the college believes she can do college-level work.
Jane deserves the chance to finish college and qualify herself for something better than minimum wage and for something more substantial than what her parents have. She has earned the right to work for a life where she’ll have options. As her parent of the last six years, I fought for that. Now it’s time to celebrate the future and the fact that all things are possible.
Jane wrote a beautiful essay, secured letters of recommendation, nailed her interview, and passed the classes she needed to pass. She did that in spite of discouragement from many of the adults around her.
Jane is going to college. This changes everything.
Emma Margraf is a writer and a foster parent in Washington state. She writes mostly about foster parenting and nonprofit life, but she aspires to be a food and travel writer and to make the perfect grilled cheese. Read other blog posts Emma has written about foster parenting.