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A DREAM of Equal Access to Education

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always been a hero to me.  I grew up watching his speeches and coloring his picture in school. Even at a young age, I admired his dedication, his compassion, and his ambitious views of freedom and equality for all people. Without a doubt, Dr. King has shaped my view of social entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington, we are all thinking about the hopes and ideals expressed that day and just how far we have come.  The March was a call for change in terms of racial inequality in America during the 1960's, but it touched on injustices across the human experience.  Fifty years later, the fight is not over.  We see evidence of racial inequality in this country each day.  We also see a growing chasm between "the haves and the have-nots" with lasting implications for our nation.

You have heard this quote:  "education is a right, not a privilege."  Yet, the costs of higher education, in particular, grow farther and farther away from the clutches of low-income youth.   Last week, President Obama announced his plan to make college more affordable.  In his speech at the University at Buffalo, he said: 

At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make: Either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a degree — and that’s a price that lasts a lifetime — or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won’t be able to pay it off because you’ve got so much debt.

College has never been more important.  The average salary of a four-year college graduate is $45,000 per year.  Individuals with a high school diploma are making half that much annually.  For young parents -- the population we serve here at Generation Hope -- $21,000 a year is not enough to provide a safe, stable, home for themselves and for their children.  Putting food on the table and staying healthy is a daily challenge.  Our community, and our country, will only be as strong as the families that comprise it.  When one family falls, it affects us all.

We have to do three things to address this inequality 1) spread awareness among the most disadvantaged youth that college is possible, 2) provide adequate support to increase their likelihood of graduation, and 3) enact legislation that ensures access to higher education for all. 

In the words of Dr. King:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

We must be deliberate and tireless in our fight for true equality. 

- Nicole