Monday, June 12, 2017

Lily Eskelsen García: He wanted to interview me, but then I learned about him.

He wanted to interview me, but then I learned about him.:

He wanted to interview me, but then I learned about him…

I get many inquiries from reporters who want my take on an issue. Recently, I received an unusual query. It was from a student at Orange County Community College (OCCC) in Newburgh, NY who writes for the campus paper.
The student, Samir Thomas, sent me some of his articles from the Community College Campus News and asked for my answers to two questions for a series he’s writing to help special education students adjust to college. What Samir asked me and what he wrote were so moving that I wanted to share it.
First, let me tell you a little about this remarkable student.
Samir lives with his mom and brother in Newburgh.  When he and his younger brother were very young, they ingested lead-based paint chips from the walls of their old apartment in the Bronx. Lead poisoning, which can result short- and long-term learning difficulties and damage a developing brain, was the result. 
From kindergarten through 12th grade, Samir and his brother were in special education in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. Last August, Samir graduated from high school. He enrolled in community college through TRIO, the federal outreach programs that assist students who are low-income or have special needs.
Those programs are a lifeline—but at this moment they’re in danger.  They would suffer under the budget-cutting agenda of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, a dangerous duo that wants to take an ax to funding for public schools and higher education.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which helps level the educational playing field but has never been fully funded by Congress, is at risk, as are many other programs designed to help vulnerable K-12 and college students. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Take a minute to send an email to DeVos and tell her how harmful her plans are.
Samir gives me even more motivation to fight for all our students—so that each and every one of them has the resources and support to discover their passions, follow their hearts, and live out their dreams.
Samir’s goal is to graduate with an associate’s degree and then attend a four-year college to study engineering science. And he’s well on his way. In his articles, he shares tips and lessons learned from his first year at OCCC. Here are a few:
  • “Thinking about going to college made me extremely nervous. I didn’t believe I would understand what my teachers, a.k.a. professors, said, or the classwork. I had a fear of the big words they would use or not knowing He wanted to interview me, but then I learned about him.:

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