posted 2012-03-07 18:41:53

Helping Hands for Admission

A Student Argues For Continued Support of the SEEK Program

Alexandra Heidler, Staff Writer

SEEK, also known as “Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge” is a program that targets those with low academic marks and raised in poverty. Born out of the civil rights movement, it originally aimed to remove the negative effects of racial discrimination and standards set by predetermined economic background. If qualified, the SEEK program provides extra financial assistance, as well as remedial classes and a summer program to positively introduce students into the challenges of college life before starting freshman year. The EOP and HEOP programs came out of the pioneering endeavors of SEEK, and has been a model for many affirmative action programs. But why should we be supporting this program when it poses a potential threat to lower Hunter’s collective academic profile? Is it fair to the rest of the students who have worked hard, studied long, or who were naturally competent enough to achieve admissions to allow another portion of the student body to come in? YES. Yes, I absolutely believe it is essential to provide better attention and nurturing to those who may not have received the opportunity to otherwise. And I’m not just saying this because it’s politically correct.

I have come to realize over the years that I have been blessed with some extremely good support and encouragement in my growth. I had teachers watch me write my first story in 1st Grade; they later helped me print the story into my own book. My mother badgered me to define and look up words if she felt I didn’t understand them. The dictionary was our Bible and I strived academically because of it. On top of all that, I am a U.S.-born Caucasian female, endowed with cultural capital and a lack of social stigma. I am judged to have a beneficial pedigree because of my skin, the way I speak, and I therefore receive many social benefits. This is not everyone’s story, and it would certainly be a boring place if it was. Some students don’t have the pleasure of parents who can help them with homework, or the time to study when they are needed elsewhere to support basic needs.

I believe the SEEK program not only benefits the applicants and those admitted, but it also benefits the student body as a whole by bringing different perspectives and personalities to the classroom. SEEK supports much of the immigrant community and serves an important role in encouraging and producing top students who wouldn’t otherwise have the same prospects. I certainly came to Hunter in order to benefit from the mixed student

body, getting the chance to take classes like “Concept of Self in African American Literature” and “Asian American Memoirs”. It is my classmates themselves who have breathed so much life into my education; Hunter being a great reflection of all the different cultures that NYC brings. We sometimes forget after we’ve gotten through the doors how each of our applications was examined for a very definite yes or no, creating a structured and selected group. SEEK is way to defy these norms and prevent our student body from resembling an inbred royal family.

Academic records are not always a reflection of what we’re capable of. Like any good relationship, you will generally get out what you put in. The problem with our public school system is that not all students are matched with institutions that have the funds or the time to spend on their students. “No Child Left Behind” failed to work on schools that needed help, and continued to reward and support schools that were already doing well.

I can tell how programs like SEEK would be beneficial from my own experience. I went to a C average school in Orlando, FL. There was a magnet program for IB students, our saving grace for funding. But I could feel the huge discrepancy between those in the program and those who were “regular” students. I floated somewhere in between, taking a few AP courses, but most of my friends had very different experiences based on the classes we attended. The IB students enjoyed extensive college counseling, application help, SAT prep, and better resources. The school used them to piggy back their funding for the rest of the school, whose counseling encouraged most of the student body to simply go to the local community college if anything at all. Regular students were treated like a meal stamp, and the school was the binged out addict abusing the adoption system to have kids because of the money they provided. The support students received was not an accurate reflection of our capabilities. If it weren’t for a few great teachers many of us wouldn’t have the encouragement to make something better of ourselves.

I’ve seen the way our public schools can poorly reflect a student’s potential and interest when the establishment fails to inform or encourage. So programs like SEEK are a reminder as to why I came to Hunter in the first place, to become a teacher who can enliven and invigorate students with passion, dedication, and education. SEEK aims to support and encourage these qualities at the college level. Something we see far too little of in a time when funding is used on security gates, and raises in tuition make an already difficult responsibility like college almost unbearable.