The Port Cafe: Dining Without Classism

Imagine opening the door to a high-end, exclusive restaurant. The whoosh of air-conditioned comfort draws you in as the well-trained hostess welcomes you to the bustling space, full of smiling, well-dressed, and well-fed people. The aromas of garlic and spices waft throughout the room, evidence of the much-loved chef supervising the kitchen. Now imagine the doorway to a soup kitchen in the local church basement. A line of sun-leathered faces stretches out the door as the crowd waits for bell to ring, signaling that they are allowed to enter and eat. They can stay as long as they behave themselves... Read More

On Being an Other

“I don’t want to sound stupid or anything,” said my aunt as she made a remark about the weather being cold, but not as cold as in Massachusetts. I noticed how she quickly grazed her eyes in my direction before letting them drop when our eyes met. Lately, I felt as though many of my close friends and family members were making statements such as these quite frequently. Level of intelligence had never been something that created a barrier between us before my first semester at college. I had just returned home, and after being away for a short 4... Read More

Removing Barriers to Access

It wasn’t until I was in my second semester of college at UMass Amherst that I discovered being a first generation college student was an identity. Now, I was very proud to be the first in my family to attend college and knew it was an important accomplishment. But I wasn’t aware of the wealth of resources available for “first gen” students, or that I could find a community that understood my struggles navigating the structures of higher education. Instead, my family and I waded through the college application and financial aid process, and ultimately had major issues filling out... Read More

Don’t Leave us in the Shadows

I learned from the Summit that first-generation students come from many different backgrounds and carry many types of experiences — but we all share one thing in common, and that’s obtaining a four-year degree. However, I believe one key element that is often overlooked is students who started at community colleges. Most community college students are in fact first-gen students. Why so? Well, it’s just more feasible economically and emotionally for us to attain an Associates degree, rather than to jump straight into a four-year institution. Not one Summit speaker or facilitator emphasized the struggle of a first-gen community college... Read More

Flying Toward the Light: Women Transitioning from the Working to the Upper Class

When I was a teenager in the mid-80s, my parents laid out how my life was to be lived even before I lived it. As a girl, I was expected to find a job in a secretarial pool, or in a similar service-sector career, before marrying and having several children by the time I reached my mid-20s. Had I been a boy, I would have been encouraged to find a manual-labor job, ideally in a high-paying trade and as part of a union. Why go to college and struggle for a degree? My parents asked. Why reach for the stars... Read More

Cross-Class Dating

When I first met my current boyfriend, I probably couldn’t have guessed what kind of family he came from. Social class in America isn’t really something we ask people about directly but it plays a huge role in almost every aspect of a person’s life. When you meet someone for the first time it’s impossible to truly know someone’s class or financial status; it’s also incredibly impolite to ask. If you pay close enough attention, however, you can start to pick up clues. It didn’t take me long to figure out that he came from pretty wealthy means. On our... Read More

When Love Crosses Class Lines

What’s it like to be married to someone who grew up in a different class? If you asked most of the 64 college-educated adults who I interviewed who did so, they would tell you that it was like being married to anyone else. Most said that they loved their partner deeply, and, like all couples, they faced some challenges – challenges that they thought were based upon their own idiosyncratic personalities. But I also interviewed college-educated adults who married a spouse who shared their class background, and their experiences were very different. The “idiosyncrasies” of each person and marriage, it... Read More

Is That What They Would Say?: Home Knowledge vs. School Knowledge

Two incidents from my school years illustrate the clash between home experience and school assumptions. In second grade, I was drawing in my Alice and Jerry book, a lovely book about the foreign country of the middle class where kids got surprise playhouses for their birthdays— built, painted, and transported by Dad and Grandpa who’d set aside their suits and fedoras for the weekend. On the day I remember, I had the enjoyable task of drawing (with nice crayons, more than eight to a package, and all still with sharp points and paper wrappings) a response to this prompt: “Mother... Read More
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