Student View: Reaching New Heights

by Saida Beckum '07

I’m certain I looked foolish, talking and gesturing wildly to no one in my car while headed to lunch that day, but I couldn’t help it; I just couldn’t bite my tongue any longer! What sparked my behavior? A session of the Scripps College Summer Academy this past June is the culprit.

During the session that I attended as an observer for the Scripps Magazine, Professor Amy Marcus-Newhall delivered a brilliant lesson on stereotypes, along with an activity that sparked in-depth discussion anlong the 36 high school students who were on campus for this two-week program. In this activity, students were given labels that denoted race and socio-economic status. The students were then asked to treat each other according to the stereotypes associated with each label. Professor Marcus-Newhall also showed a portion of A Class Divided. Quite unexpectedly, this inspired further thought and questioning in myself, at one point almost bringing me to tears from the ache to release some of the quickly intensifying thoughts in my head. I could go on and on about the things I learned and the interesting analyses these bright young women were conducting, but I will get right to my point: I wish I’d had an opportunity like this.

In high school, I was lucky to be surrounded by people who motivated me to see college as a necessary and, even more so, desirable next step. Also, I was well informed about the various forms of financial aid available to students. Still, I remember the number of my fellow high school classmates who were unguided and ill informed and, thus, unmotivated about college and other career preparation alternatives.

I entered Scripps College as a graduate from a local public high school where less than 40% of students enter college after high school. My school’s idea of a college fair was military recruiters, trade schools, and junior colleges. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with these options, but for my high school, located less than ten miles from five of the highest ranking schools on the West Coast, I found (and still find) such a blatant omission to be a glaring indicator of a lack of confidence by the faculty and administration in its students.

That lack of faith was something I battled every day in high school. I felt my intelligence insulted as my teachers assigned book reports, spelling words, even coloring assignments. I yearned for an outlet for my intellectual capabilities, so I joined the school newspaper-to no avail. I often wondered when I would get the opportunity to make my thoughts heard.

In the Scripps College Summer Academy, the young women, perhaps for the firct time, were given the priceless opportunity to have their thoughts heard very early in their 1ives. The Scripps faculty members had the opportunity to water down their lessons, but they chose not to because they believed the girls were capable of understanding the complex issues they presented.

It would be easy for high schools and colleges to point fingers, blaming one another for the lack of information and awareness of post-secondary options. Scripps, however, is doing something about it. The College is taking the initiative to reach out to these frequently overlooked students. It makes me proud that Scripps is providing a number of young women from underserved high schools an abbreviated but ever-beneficial look at “college life”: the admissions process, financial aid information, and dorm life. You should be proud, too.