Headed for Harvard Against All Odds

“Help me” is not a phrase I’ve used many times in my life. I have spent my life working hard to prove that I can do anything I set my mind to despite the cards I am dealt—cards that included living substantially below the poverty line, having family members who struggled with substance abuse and incarceration, and having to move 23 times before I turned 27. As a single working mother, I earned my bachelor’s degree and started my career in education as a teacher in a turn-around school in Worcester MA.

I was overjoyed to be accepted into the Prevention Science and Practice (PSP) Master’s Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In the PSP program students explore the many risk and protective influences on child and adolescent development, and learn how to design strengths-based interventions that promote well-being across academic, social-emotional, and health domains.  

So where exactly will your donation be going? The total cost for tuition and fees is $53,208. However the suggested budget for a Master’s student attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a full time is $79,894. My personal situation would further increase the cost of attending due to childcare costs and a commute of more than an hour.  In addition, this is an accelerated program with field practicum hours in which students are strongly advised not to work. Consequently, I have had to take a leave and give up my only source of income. Currently, support will come from some savings and a heavy amount of loans. However this will prove to be a weighty burden post graduation as I am still paying off remaining student loans from prior education.

Through my teaching position in the public schools I have fallen in love with empowering underprivileged and traumatized youth. There are not enough words to describe the feelings invoked when a child’s face lights up from achievement or beginning to believe in his/herself. The education I will receive from HGSE will allow me to light up more faces with pride. With research on theory and practice it will be possible to determine effective preventative measures that will decrease the number of youth whose learning is negatively impacted by circumstances.

I believe that too often children slip through the cracks of opportunity. When this occurs, they are left in a space where hope is dimmed and pathways to success are steeper. My passion for this cause stems from the undeniable fact that my own story could have taken a different direction. I was fortunate enough to have encountered people who believed in me before I learned to believe in myself. With their assistance I was exposed to various programs and resources that led me in the positive direction of youth and educational empowerment. In turn I will pay it forward by believing in others until they learn to believe in themselves.

That way teachers can begin seeing less reactions like these....
28616900_15229829170_r.jpegStudents with trauma often react in ways seen above: violent outbursts, fleeing the classroom, hiding or completely shutting down.

and more reactions like these!
As much as I have managed to achieve, I have to admit that I cannot reach my next goal without substantial help from family, friends and other kindhearted individuals. As hard as that is to confess, I am willing to swallow my pride if it increases my ability to achieve my dream of attending this program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this Fall.

I sincerely appreciate that you are considering making a generous donation. Every little bit gets me one step closer to making a difference for myself, my daughter and the children I will continue to fight for. To share my story with others you can copy the page link.

Thank you again, from our family to yours...
 Including all my little classroom lions.Especially the lions like this one...

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Jennessa Burks 
Worcester, MA
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