Lisa was classified by school administrators as a “gifted” and “at risk” kid. At their urging, she joined Upward Bound, a program aimed at preparing low-income, inner-city kids for college. Like Lisa, the other kids in the program had gotten high test scores, but were earning poor grades in school. They met once a week, and every summer they went to the University of Kansas for six weeks, staying at dorms and taking small-college-style classes, which would be counted for credit at college, to which admission was guaranteed upon completion of the program. They took field trips and watched movies. The program’s director was from Venezuela. “She would tell us about black people being everywhere in the world,” Lisa recalled. “She said, ‘Stop thinking of yourself as the only black people in the world. As minorities. You might be minorities in this country, but most of the world is brown.’”
Lisa finished the program successfully, but she never made it to the university. “The program reached me, and it was great at that time,” Lisa told me. “But when I got home that lackadaisical attitude kinda stuck with me.” When it came time to enroll at KU, she took the paperwork for financial aid to her father, but he didn’t want his business exposed to some new bureaucracy, so she decided to try to go through the process of establishing her independence and try again in a year. Then she got pregnant with Antoine, and that was the end of that.