Student Heroes in a Tough Economy

This week I gained a new level of awareness regarding the heroic character of a number of my students and their associates.

“Sixty percent of my income goes to support my mother,” said a 19-year-old woman in my office, who works full time as a manager.

Her mother has lost her home and job in the economic downturn. Taking on the responsibility of her support, my student has lost the independence that 19 year olds crave.

She is not alone. She says she knows an increasing number of young people who are also stepping up to support parents and siblings caught in crisis. I am getting to know an increasing number, too.

Another 20-year-old student told me she has taken custody of her 17-year-old brother because their mother was not providing him a healthy home environment and their father is homeless. While she works full time and has bought her own house, she is also reporting to class with an animated determination to complete school.

Schooling—that one more item in one’s budget of time and money the barely seems possible to afford.

“I had to draw the line somewhere,” said student number one of establishing a boundary to keep herself from sinking under her growing responsibilities. “I decided that I draw the line on school. This is something I want and I’m going to do it.”

These young people are heroes to me as they struggle to help their families while still reaching as best they can for their dreams. I am humbled to see how they approach education with reverence and hope, and I feel honored to be their teacher.


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