As many of you know, I am a Professor of English at Modesto Junior College. As one of my first writing assignments, I ask students to write me an introductory letter that tells me a little about them, some of the challenges they face outside of school that may prevent them from succeeding in classes, and I also want to know a little about their academic goals and history within education.
Each semester I am floored by their past (and current) struggles from abuse to foster care, abject poverty, abandonment, prison, and the list goes on, but mostly, these experiences are in the past and they have overcome them enough to start fresh (which is when I am lucky enough to meet them.)
This semester, however, I met a student named Brandon. He explains in his letter that he has to be at the Salvation Army Shelter at 5pm every day or he will not get a cot for the night. He tells me that he has to sleep in his car and can't take his laptop in the shelter to do homework or it will be stolen. He has 3 kids and has been in prison twice, once for selling weed (when he was 19) and then when he got out of prison and NO ONE would hire him because of his criminal record despite trying for more than a year to get a job, he did what he had to do: sold drugs and got pinched again. (Please withhold your judgment. Please.)
He is absolutely clean now, working a PT job, and he is enrolled in college where he belongs. He gets some financial aid (thank you, California) and he is trying very, very hard to turn things around and I truly believe he can. However, he was recently denied food stamps because he only works 12 hours (and apparently needs 20, which he can't get at the restaurant where he washes dishes . . . and if he could, frankly, I think that would significantly compromise his focus on school, but that's just my teacherly opinion.)
I believe in Brandon and I believe in so many students like him who desperately need second chances and people to believe in them (because they haven't had that their whole lives.) Brandon is clearly on the right track and I don't want to see him drift backwards.
SO . . . based on the advice of my many wonderful Facebook friends, I am starting this small campaign to contribute to his education, gas, car repairs and car insurance, child care-- including school supplies, food, shoes, and clothing as needed--(His boys mostly stay with his ex-girlfriend, in case you're wondering).
If you're interested in contributing, I PROMISE beyond all promises, that the money will be used to help keep Brandon afloat, motivated, and IN SCHOOL where he will learn, grow, thrive, and finally graduate . . . and be able to someday look back on this semester as the year that changes his life.
P.S. If this campaign generates more money than targeted, my goal will be to open a fund with one of Modesto's non-profit, charitable foundations SPECIFICALLY to help homeless students in need who WILL NOT have to fill out a lot of paperwork and jump through countless hurdles to get help. In other words, it would be AWESOME to have a small fund that can be used to help other students in meaningful and immediate ways.
I cannot tell you how much this means to these students and to me as a teacher who has been blessed to connect them with community angels willing to help. They think I am teaching them, but let's be honest: These students are teaching us more about humanity and perseverance and dedication and overcoming adversity than we would ever learn ourselves.
Thank you for considering a donation and thank you for your big, beautiful hearts.
DISCLAIMER: This is campaign is not directly affiliated with Modesto Junior College (MJC). The director of this campaign, Sam Pierstorff, has been a professor of English and poetry at MJC for 17.5 years and he is simply trying to help serve students within his community college in the best way that he knows how (outside of teaching kick-ass English classes, of course).
- Miranda MacLucas
- Catherine Salcedo
- Amber Flores
- Natalia Khamo Diryawush