Thursday, May 11, 2017

Students I've Had at UTEP (University of Texas, El Paso): Stories of Dedication and Resilience by Aurolyn Luykx


- the one who lived in her car and worked at a topless bar to pay the rent on an apartment where her grandmother cared for her children, and still came to class every day ready to learn.

- the one who returned to school after spending time in prison but had to drop out due to complications from diabetes.

- the one who became a 21-year-old widower with an 18-month-old baby two weeks before the semester started, and didn’t drop out.

- the one who was trying to get her and her children away from a physically abusive husband while also managing her lupus and fighting the Army's attempt to take away her educational benefits.

- the one who was HIV positive and sometimes sick but still acted as a mentor to his younger classmates.

- the one who grew up in the U.S. but self-deported so he could make a new life on his own terms rather than wait for ICE to arrest him.

- the one who, over the course of a semester, took the readings to heart and went from being a "conservative Christian" to a "social-gospel Christian."

- the one who came to class in tears after being harassed by officials at the international bridge.

- the one who never knew her struggle had a name until we talked about transgenderism in class.

- the one who graduated with honors and became a bilingual teacher after being told all through grade school that he was stupid.

- the one who got angry at discussions about "white privilege" because her father was doing a life sentence for murder.

- the one who dropped multiple F-bombs into the class discussion because he was just that charged up about the material.

- the one who managed her heroin addiction so well that no one suspected.

- the one who was homeless but kept his gym membership because it gave him a place to shower before class.

- the one who walked two miles to campus after she missed the bus.

- the one who came back from Afghanistan with PTSD and spent his first year back in the midst of a messy divorce.

- the one whose household included a mentally ill mother, two small children with "special needs," and a wife who was getting pretty fed up with it all.

- the one who got punched in the face by a stranger on the street because he was holding hands with his boyfriend.

- the one who shared the story of her rape in class.

- the ones who suffered through difficult pregnancies, uploading their homework assignments from their hospital beds.

- the ones who went from their afternoon job to their night job and finished closing at 5 a.m. and went home and showered and came to class without sleeping.

- the athletes who took on concussions and broken bones for the chance to get a degree.

- the ones who wrote poems that made me see them through new eyes.

- the ones who brought their young children to class because they had no child care.

- the hundreds who struggle to study in a language they haven't yet mastered.

- the ones who have internalized the ideology of success but not the tools to get them there.

- the ones who dealt with 2 or 3 or 4 of these challenges all at once.

- the ones who keep in touch years after they graduated.

- the ones who won't speak to me anymore.

- the ones who attempted suicide.

- the ones who just disappeared.

The successes of these students say more about their own dedication and resilience that about the inadequate institutional supports that make it (sort of, sometimes) possible for them to attend college at all.

Aurolyn Luykx is a proud BAT, a community activist, and an associate professor of anthropology at UTEP.

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