the twit


    the slipperiness of success stories.

    this one (like many before it) goes out to ben guest, as it's a wonderful twist on the old "one child at a time" mantra, especially in regards to the undeniable (though assuredly tenuous, as the following post will illuminate) pleasure of knowing that a young person is achieving the excellence and receiving the opportunities she deserves-- and that you are somehow causally connected to that process. that being said, it's a long road.

    previous posts related to R:

    i am very disappointed to hear from mr. roth and from margaret that you are considering going to jsu next year. i am in the process of tracking down someone at smith that can talk to you about financial options, and hope that my efforts are not wasted.

    it goes without saying that the opportunities at smith college are vastly different than those at jsu. furthermore, if one of your concerns-- as margaret has conveyed to me-- is that since you are a valedictorian than smith college should not require you to take out a loan, i am severely disappointed in this attitude-- since i've always admired your humility, earnestness, and sense of duty.

    no one at amherst college gets scholarships-- you're lucky that smith has some. every bit of financial aid at places like amherst, harvard, williams, etc. comes in the form of need-based loans and grants given to students based on their or their parent's income level. there are many reasons for this, one of which is that if a place like smith college wanted to fill its incoming class with all valedictorians-- it could. there are 450 slots for the incoming class at amherst and over 15,000 applicants-- certainly at least 450 of those applicants are valedictorians, or have a perfect ACT score, or a perfect SAT score, or whatever. but-- and i hope you understand this-- that's not the point. no one is letting you into smith college because you're a valedictorian from jim hill high school-- it is a meaningful though i imagine minor qualification given the depth and breadth of your finer qualities.

    furthermore, i want to remind you that i was certainly not the valedictorian at my high school, that i certainly took out loans to go to amherst (which i am still paying off, and it's not a big burden), and that i chose the financial risk of amherst over scholarships from other schools who wanted to reward me financially but-- in comparison to amherst-- not academically (that's right, jsu may pay you-- but that doesn't mean they're going to teach you).

    in your recommendation letter, i wrote this of you:

    "At the end of the [Princeton Review Program], [R] had gained 400 points on her cumulative [SAT] score, and continues to improve as she sits for additional SAT and ACT tests, ever focused on the opportunities afforded to her by academic success, and profoundly conscious that – though many of her peers are and will be satisfied with scores and performances that are “good enough” – she can always do better, and that excellence is rarely satisfied."

    R, you've always struck me as someone who understands that "excellence is rarely satisfied," and certainly as someone who would not be "satisfied with scores and performance that are 'good enough.'" however, in light of your current dilemma-- i am concerned that see you are seeking what can only be described as a rather troubling satisfaction (i.e. money) for a questionable indicator of excellence (i.e. being a high school valedicatorian-- which i assure you is both impressive and meaningful today but will mean much less so in ten years) from an institution that is certainly in the realm of "good enough" (i.e. jsu).

    i do not want to look back on those words that i wrote and fear that i had the wrong impression of someone that i cared so much for as a student. the rewards and opportunities that you are headed for are neither obvious nor tangible; i hope that you can accept that monetary satisfaction is so trivial in contrast to the potential benefit of a community of academic excellence that you so deserve to be in. smith will not be easy-- academically, financially, personally-- but it will be a space in which you have the opportunity to grow and achieve beyond your wildest imaginations, and to transcend the boundaries of region and community.

    please, R, approach this next phase of your life with patience, faith, humility, and strength. know that i will support you in whatever decision you make-- though i will voice be a voice of both criticism and encouragement as you continue your journey to excellence. i can only hope that you make decisions that are mature enough to embrace the complexity of both the known and the unknown.

    mr. molina