Cost of Opportunities

A few weeks ago, I happened to see one of my favorite parenting-advice authors, Julie Lythcott-Haims on CBS This Morning (here’s the clip). I appreciate and recommend her book How to Raise an Adult. In the video clip, several of the points from the book are shared, however, what struck me was her take on the college admission scandal. In short, people with money and the need to have their kids in esteemed colleges unfairly took spots from other, also deserving, students.

That same evening, I was talking to a colleague about which of our students would be heading to a particular national competition. This program our students participate in prepares students in a unique way for the business world. Every year, we send dozens of students to the State competition and bring home some hardware, as well as invitations for them to go to the National competition. I have heard it is a fun, rewarding experience for all that attend, and is often held in an inviting location, such as near Disney.

When we talked about which students would be going, my colleague said only two names. I was a little surprised and said something to the effect of I thought it might be more. Her response caught me. The other kids that were invited could not afford it. It is expensive to attend as you have to purchase airline tickets, hotel accommodations, food, and entry into any of the attractions. Yes, I am sure some of those are discounted for the event, but even discounted still costs money.

Our conversation continued. Though the kids could fundraise, beg, or work for the money, what is at issue is the cost of an opportunity. I am in favor of fundraising to an extent. I also think kids should not just be handed things but should have to work for them. However, there is a point where we need to look at this problem in a different way. An organization has created an opportunity for students to engage in meaningful experiences geared toward learning and growing. Does the organization have some responsibility to help ensure all eligible students have the ability to participate? Could the organization seek donors to cover the costs of the event? Could the cost of the event be lowered?

I do not know much about this particular organization or if they offer scholarships, but I think in general students are missing opportunities because they simply cannot afford to participate. This is heartbreaking to me as I want all kids that WANT to partake in these types of activities to be able to do so. I do not want a child’s future to be limited because of something that is out of their control now.

On the bright side, there are events available that are free for students that apply. One came across my desk last week and is free through a scholarship for ALL students that apply. The camps (see website) introduce students to the transportation industry. After reading the descriptions, I wanted to sign up! I am hopeful there are other opportunities out there like this, where the organizers have done the hard work and secured funding so the participants do not have to carry that burden. If you know of any, please comment below 🙂

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