College-Bound Seniors Need Our Help

Upstairs, Downstairs, for those who are under 40, was a popular PBS drama series in the early 1970s that depicted the lives of the wealthy Bellamy family (“upstairs”), who reside in London’s fashionable Belgravia, and their servants (“downstairs”).

Although I never actually watched the show, every time I volunteered in the Palisades High School College Center last fall as a writing coach, I thought about the concept. The students who grow up here and some of the students who travel here—the upstairs and the downstairs—live two different lives.

The majority of the seniors I tutored, the “downstairs kids” who came from low-income households, hadn’t had a writing coach and none had parents pushing them to go to a select college. Students had never visited the colleges they were applying to and most had received a fee waiver to take the SAT/ACT (for which they had no prior coaching, nor had they taken multiple practice tests).

Oneofthegirlstoldmeshehadtogetupat5a.m.to take the Metro train from Inglewood to LAX, where she caught a bus that took her to Santa Monica and then a second bus to PaliHi.

Even though the kids didn’t see the importance of writing about their travel to get to school, I did. Colleges/ universities needed to know the reason there weren’t a lot of extracurricular activities on the application was because of the commute.

I asked one girl why she didn’t attend the school just a block from her home. She said she was the top student in her class at that school, but felt alone. Being smart, working on academics wasn’t what the majority of her peers felt was important.

So she came to Pali and had to learn to succeed. She flunked her first math class, but discovered the tutoring center and managed to achieve good grades.

Another girl had to deal with an abusive parent until she was finally rescued by the police. But she kept forging ahead with her pursuit of college.

After a busy fall, December came and the applications were in. One day, I got a call from the College Center that one student I helped with an essay had received a four-year full-ride to M.I.T.

Students I worked with got into colleges, and most received some sort of scholarships.

I didn’t think much beyond that because when I took my own kids to college, we went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought sheets, pillows and bedding for their dorm rooms. We picked up Kleenex, toiletries and school supplies. My kids went to East Coast colleges, so I made sure they had winter clothes, hats and mittens.

The College Center told me that some of the families who have kids going off to college are struggling to raise enough money to cover the gap between the scholarships and the cost for books and other necessities. Other kids have to pay for everything on their own; their parents can’t help.

Most of these kids won’t start out with new sheets and a comforter in their dorm room—instead, they will pack something in their suitcase and go. (Of course, some of them don’t have a suitcase.)

What if . . . we treat these kids, “our” kids—because they’ve been part of our community as students—to a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond or Target or Amazon? They aren’t asking. They aren’t looking for a handout.

You can become an Angel Aide by sending $100 or any amount (it’s tax deductible) to Pali’s Booster Club at PaliHighBoosterClub.com or by mail to P.O. Box 223, Pacific Palisades 90272. The boosters will forward all donations to the College Center to help purchase gift cards for deserving seniors.

The College Center has sent me the names of 11 students with the greatest needs. They will be attending Long Beach State, M.I.T., Morehouse College, UC Riverside, Sonoma State, UC Merced, San Jose State, Columbia College Chicago, International Fashion Academy in Paris, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Cruz.

Ruth Grubb, the head college advisor at PaliHi, wrote: “Any help with finances would help all of these students; they all have travel expenses and all will have to purchase things for their dorm room, not to mention text books. Eight of them are moving out of Southern California so will need to buy appropriate clothing and shoes. Contact me if you want more information.”

Call: (310) 230-6643.

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