Help a poor, disabled girl get her PhD

I grew up in deep, profound poverty and managed to go to Stanford both for my B.A. and Masters. While I was an undergrad, I was the most visible activist for first generation college students and poor students, initiating many of the innovations now found on college campuses for those students; including but not limited to: responsive health care, social class being covered under Acts of Intolerance protocol, the first office on an elite college campus for first gen students, and pushing Stanford to be first school to use the term "low income" so that we were no longer invisible. Academically, I was a devoted history major.

 After obtaining my B.A. I worked for a year with AmeriCorps as a Special Needs Paraprofessional, went back to education school to get my teaching degree, and then taught in high needs schools. The intention was to do that to give back for as long as possible but last year I sustained an career ending injury while teaching that made it such that I can never teach K12 again. But while I was teaching, I was pretty awesome or at least my former students thought I was, and I was nominated for awards by students and had major growth and test score gains. 

I have a little known genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ehlers-danlos-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20033656. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue. In my case, it resulted in severe migraines, chronic pain, unstable joints and a condition called POTS that causes me to pass out and throw up a lot. In my first year of teaching high school, I injured my hip, knee and ankle and couldn't walk for 4 months.

I had planned to save up to get my PhD but now I can't work anymore. But even though I can't work. I can read and write and I do write over here:  http://beelitenotfab.wordpress.com/

I want to get my PhD so I continue to contribute my intellectual talents and so that I can use those talents to help create a kinder more just world through writing and research. As one of my heroes, Lu Xun, put it after he decided not to be a doctor while revolution was happening in China (late 1800s-early 1900s); there is no point in saving the body when we need to save the soul.  Our world needs a deep inquiry into equity and justice and at this point education remains both a site of hope and of oppression. I plan to write my dissertation on the history of funding in California, the ways and reasons that Proposition 13 (and in other states, bills like it) have reinforced inequity in our schools. Specifically I'm interested in the way it has affected the community I came from, where research is still not addressing the structural changes that have occured for the working classes in this country.

I wanted to work and save up for my applications but I can't work anymore. I do not have parents that have the means to help. Applications are at least 100 dollars and then I have to fly to interviews in the spring. You'd think there would be fee waivers, but there aren't, for me at most schools and when there are I have to apply for limited spots. Fee waivers are difficult to obtain because I'm white and am ineligible for most fee waiver programs, that's not a judgement statement or an argument that those programs should not exist, we should just expand what we have to include anyone who is poor but you are welcome to have whatever opinion you'd like about it.

Why haven't you heard about the difficulty of applying to PhDs for working class scholars before? Well, because in the first place there are very few people from my background that even finish their first degree in college, much less Stanford degrees. Here's the breakdown.

This applies to Stanford but basically applies to other schools as well.

Stanford's freshman class has about 1200 students

10 to 12 percent are Pell Grant recipients (the number the federal government uses to count poor students, it has it flaws but universities don't keep track otherwise).

3/4 of those students are of color, 1/4 are white

That comes to about 30 students in their freshman class that come from my background and those students rarely go on to get PhDs. For those of you keeping track this means that even though 40% of the poor in the United States are white, Stanford's working class white population makes up .025 of the Freshman class and .083 percent of the white population on the campus. So basically what I am telling you is that I am a statistical anomaly and this might be why we only recently discovered in the academy that the suburbs are now poorer than the inner city even though I've been living that reality my whole life. And I'm a white kid who came from a suburban neighborhood that was about 25% white, 30% black, 20 percent "Asian" and 25 % percent Hispanic but 100% poor. And who didn't go to a "good" school somehow and came from a home with drugs and violence. I'm a unicorn with this education but that means I have a different world view that needs to be shared. And just the working class students of any race are a tiny minority and those students rarely get PhDs, that means that working class people aren't represented. It means that the academy misses out on a fresh and different perspective. Even if you don't agree with my politics, you should agree that our market places of ideas should be selling all of the goods.

I'm not applying to advance ideology, I am applying to do deep intellectual work but I am saying that my upbringing allows me to ask different questions and understand people a bit differently.

I'm a poor, disabled white girl who grew up in the ghetto in the Central Valley of California who has two Stanford degrees. I will finish this dissertation and I will add something new and I've been doing that my entire life. My high school teachers said I couldn't go to college because of my poverty, health and gender. This is your opportunity to support a true meritocracy in our civilization.
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Organizer

Heather Charles 
Organizer
Sacramento, CA
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