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Overcoming the labels seeking to define students

The words used within the confines of a system always shape the way conversations are

held. In the education system, those powerful enough to define these terms are often

people who don’t share the same lived experiences.

A single mother living paycheck to paycheck is seen as disadvantaged, not as hard-

working and sacrificial. The student who struggles in math class may be regarded as lazy

instead of needing additional support. The senior in high school who chooses to attend

trade school instead of a traditional four-year university may be called a failure instead of

financially minded.

These words, although used to label, may also inadvertently tell young people they are

stuck. This could cause one to assume the hopeless position that there is no possibility of

escaping the labels of “disadvantaged,” “low-Income” and “under-resourced.”

We at EPIC know that every student bears the opportunity within themselves to dream

big, even if it doesn’t mean going down the traditional path. How do we fight against the

terms continually blinding us from who and what we can become? Once we understand

how and why these terms are used, we can use them to make our definitions.

The infrastructure of a system that says, “you can’t.”

The root cause of a lot of injustices in our education comes down to funding guided by

racist policies driving the cycle of poverty among minority students. According to EdBuild,

non-white school districts receive $23 million less than their white counterparts.

What does this gap in funding look like? For teachers, it means lacking technological

materials in classrooms and needing to dig into their own pockets to resource learning

materials. For students, it could mean fewer field trips outside of the neighborhood

resulting in limited to no access to see other ways of living.

This monetary gap is why the system uses the word “under-resourced”-- meaning not

having the funds to offer students additional resources beyond the simple classroom.

Furthermore, the students sitting in these under-resourced classrooms become

underserved, possibly lessening their abilities to become versed with technology.

Other words in this same conversation include “disadvantaged” or “underserved,” as in,

not having enough to succeed as much as students in wealthier areas.

Among Black and Hispanic/Latino students, it could be seen as the basis of “systematic

racism” in the education system. Not that their ethnic background is the barrier to their

success, but the continual deprivation of resources does not allow them to access the

tools required to fight for their dreams.

What builds a fruitful future

The difference between resources in public versus private schools is evident. Private

school students statistically achieve higher test scores leading to a more elite university

acceptances, and ultimately, access to the “right” job and salary as displayed by

However, we believe it is not necessary to empty our finances in order to be on the path

to professional advancement.

The average college student federal loan debt balance in the United States is $37,113,

not including private loans. This financial burden often weighs down on both graduates

and students who no longer have the financial flexibility for other commitments such as a

mortgage or a business investment. Without this burden, these individuals can assure

more monetary freedom allowing them to build their own empires.

Working around the system and building connections is what truly allows young people to

believe they are worthy of becoming a professional.

In a blog post by FrontPage Community College, it is explained how knowing the right

people can land you further than just attending the name-brand school. Although the

labels confining students may seem like a barrier to wealth, it is the lack of connections

truly blocking them from building affluence.

Breaking away from the terms that define us

At EPIC, we want to show young people who may not have access to elite circles, how

they too can achieve the wealth and power they desire. Through mentorship from

professionals who were once in the students’ shoes, our children understand that they

don’t have to conform to what the system may label them.

EPIC’s scholarship recipients are not “disadvantaged,” they are curious to learn more

about the world beyond their neighborhoods. EPIC students are not overlooked, they are

working and studying for the future they see for themselves.

Investing in them with our money and time is what we’ve missioned. Once these students

see the potential success within themselves, there’s no way to stop them from aiming

toward the stars.

For more information about breaking away from the traditional avenue to success, read

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