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It all falls down

December 6, 2014

Frangipani Tree

They say that when it rains it pours. Right now it’s pouring and it would be so easy to let go and wash away. I’ve been juggling a lot of balls the past few months and one by one they are slipping through my hands.

At the beginning of November I sent three of my students to Monrovia to take the SAT. They managed to print their admission tickets, pick up money at the bank, and find a safe place to lodge. They followed my directions precisely but were turned away at the test center. “Come back Monday. There has been a death in the test administrator’s family.” I didn’t think the Collegeboard would approve of that but my students needed the scores for their applications so I let it go.

They returned the following Monday and the test was administered, but my student Romeo was taken in a different room and given the wrong test. He protested. My other students protested. The administrator shrugged and told him it was too late. They called me in a panic that night and I could feel the fear in Romeo’s voice. It was like he could see his dreams crashing before they had a chance to get off the ground. “Ms. RB, do something. They won’t help us!”

I know the test administrator looked at their admission tickets and underestimated them. What can three poor kids from the ‘bush’ do? Ha!

Within ten minutes I was on the phone with the SAT head office lodging a complaint and opening an investigation of the situation. It took three weeks but they agreed to let him retake the test and a nice woman helped me do a last minute registration so Romeo could retake it this weekend. He needs these scores now so we couldn’t wait until the next date at the end of January.

It was a small victory but still a victory.

And in the meantime they had finished all their applications, the transcripts had arrived at the admissions office, and the pieces were slowly coming together. I allowed myself to feel hopeful.

My own grad school application had been rejected again but something good had to be on the horizon. Flip the coin enough times and you have to get the right side sometimes.

The phone rang this morning and it was Romeo. I asked how his retake of the SAT went. “Oh, I didn’t take it. They said to come back Monday. The test administrator died. They said they can’t just leave his body laying around so they can’t give the test today.”

Liberia isn’t easy. Are you getting that?

Looking for some good news I logged into the students’ online application portals for one of the schools. I wanted to see if their test scores or transcripts had been uploaded yet. Not only had that not happened: they had already been rejected.

The school hadn’t processed or received all my students’ documents yet they determined they are not academically qualified. It’s not that I can’t take rejection. It’s that there are still major cards in play.  How can they end the game while we’re still playing?

Each student did an 11-page scholarship application in addition to the regular application. I spent hours writing glowing recommendation letters and helping them find other references in the community.

And no one is going to read any of it because of a few arbitrary numbers.

Keep climbing, kids. They can’t see you yet and they don’t care how deep the hole is. Shame on them for that.

“You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.”

– Frederick Douglass

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen H permalink
    December 6, 2014 11:32 pm

    Rebecca, you and your students are inspiring. Please let me know if there is anything someone else in the US can do to help.

    • lifemagnanimous permalink*
      December 7, 2014 5:56 am

      Thanks, Jen. They’re applying to one other school so there is still hope. Just send a lot of good thoughts. Last year one of my successful students said, “My only worry was that you would give up before I did.” We can have a lot of no’s as long as we eventually get one yes.

  2. Kiri permalink
    December 8, 2014 7:33 pm

    I do admire you. Keep going, you are making a big difference to young people’s lives. And they are brave and courageous kids. Good luck.

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