Update on the relatives

Scalzi once said that “Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.”

The oldest of our young relatives is graduating from high school this year.  She was excited about applying to colleges, but unfortunately she made some bad choices when she was 14, and again at 15.  Things like getting low grades in PE and driver’s ed and other classes that one shouldn’t do poorly in.  That combined with crippling math phobia caused by a bad algebra experience that killed her math and science grades after she otherwise got her act together has put her in the bottom half of her class.  That means no four-year college for her.

We think she has two choices in terms of schooling– she can do an academic associates degree and transfer to a 4 year state school to finish out in a major of her interest or maybe some new love.  Or she could do a 2-3 year practical degree in something like nursing or drafting.  She’s not sure what she wants to do yet.  We think that’s ok– she can change her mind after a semester or a year or even two.  What’s important is that she get started.

Unfortunately the local community college is at least an hour away.  This distance presents a problem because she doesn’t have a car, and even if she did have a car, the family has no way of paying for insurance and gas.  Community college is more difficult than a 4 year school would be in that respect because there’s bus service in college towns.  Yes, a 4 year college would cost more, but those would be long-term expenses rolled into loans and grants.  These are short-term credit constraints.

She’d love to get a job to pay for transportation, but nobody is hiring.  Her mother cannot get a minimum wage job in their town.  McDonald’s had 500 applications the last time it was hiring.  When a factory town does massive lay-offs, high school students are pretty low on the jobs totem pole.

Of course, since nobody is hiring, she can’t just go straight to work after graduation either.  She needs education in order to get a job because the only jobs available require education.  And if she has education she might be able to get a job that makes enough money she could get her own place– maybe even in a different town.

So community college it must be.  There should be carpools that she can join at least until she gets a job that covers transportation.  (And maybe the job market is better in the community college town.)  We’ll pay for her tuition and books, and she should be eligible for fairly large Pell grants compared to the cost of community college.  We’re hoping not to pay for transportation costs, but we will for a short time if it is truly necessary in order to get her to school.

Having always lived in a college town, it’s really hard wrapping my head around just how necessary transportation is if you don’t have public transport, and how difficult it can be logistically to even get to the “local” community college.  Even if the buses to my neighborhood only ran once an hour I could still get to the university or community college without a car.  And it’s crazy how small an amount of money can keep someone from having any options.  (Not a trivial amount, and not small compared to what their family has to spare, but small compared to the value of a degree.)

We’re hoping that being poor won’t mean that she’s stuck with choices she made at 14 if she has well-off relatives.

Do you know anybody stuck where nobody’s hiring?  What do people do if they can’t afford to get to school but they can’t get a job without school?

44 Responses to “Update on the relatives”

  1. Practical Parsimony Says:

    My small town is 7 miles from a junior college in a teeny town. The college did have yellow school buses that ran from our town and around the county to collect college students. They no longer do, and I don’t know why. Maybe there is this option.

    Even junior colleges have work-study programs. They do choose the most needy students. Of course, applying for it early helps.

    I know colleges want students who have performed well. But, how did she do on ACT or SAT scores? Those do count for something.

    If you call the Registrar’s Office or another you deem the right office, you may find that there is a system in place for transporting students. Have you read the catalog yet? I know it is not your job to call, but a person accustomed to talking to university offices may not be intimidated or put off by long waits and dropped calls. I know it is not your job to read the catalog, but it is amazing the things that can be found by reading it cover to cover…lol…I know you know this. However, most students and many parents do not avail themselves of the information.

    My brilliant niece who had her heart set on being a vet did not go to a 4-year college. She did not go to a junior college. She took one class at a time at the technical college. She and my sister were sad and evasive when I question them. Finally, after two years, my sister confided in me and asked for my help. My niece had made a 12 on the ACT and taking one course at a time and being on academic probation from the beginning was the only way she could attend any school after graduation.

    No one in the high school questioned the validity of the scores. I and officials at two colleges think she marked answers in the wrong place after skipping an answer. A sixteen-year-old ruined her academic career with one slip of the NO. 2 pencil. However, she joined the AF easily with her scores on those tests and ended up being successful, never a vet, but married well and went to college, finally. (If my sister had confided in me immediately, something could have been done to rectify the problem.)

    What do they do in this town? They get married and have babies or become pregnant without marriage. Some students tell me they cannot go to college because of the money needed.

    (By the way, students who complete their FAFSA online can get turned down. When they listen to me and go to the financial aid office, they get more money. The financial aid office has an Administrative Over-ride button so that they can fix problems. Ex: a family who made $100K on last year’s tax return is suddenly reduced to $30K can get financial aid with the override. Or, mother quits getting child support. Or, father must pay more child support. The FAFSA form online turns them down for aid.)

    There are other grants available for the people who need them. In this state we have Alabama State Grants that are above and beyond the Pell grants.

    It’s 3 am and this is disjointed writing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      She has a score on the ACT that would get her into a 4 year school if she had the grades to go with it but isn’t high enough to make up for her grades. She hasn’t taken the SAT, but I think she would do better on that. There’s also a big discrepancy between her math and verbal scores, but again, verbal not high enough to make up for the difference.

      That’s a really good point about work-study. There may also be some changes in child-support (and their bio-mom doesn’t pay when she’s supposed to).

  2. feMOMhist Says:

    military for men pg for women or living at home until almost 30 when employment is finally sufficient to move out or moving far far away, as in Wyoming!

    Out of my generation of cousins on both sides, my sister and I are the only college educated ones. In turn, of my parents’ siblings, only my mom and dad attended college at 18 (Mom lived at home for two years of CC then state school, Dad=spoiled flunked out of private school then gradated from another). My mother’s siblings never attended college (blue collar workers when that was still a viable economic choice, worked out well for one sibling and not well for another) and my father’s sister realized her mistake and took courses at a for profit school while working in her 30s.

    Is your young relative disciplined enough to do online coursework? I would obv. steer clear of any and all for-profit schools since those credits rarely transfer, but in rural areas there is often distance learning (and yes that may mean using a computer at the public library etc). The other question is there an option to take nonmatriculated courses at a 4 year college (I can’t tell if in your post the 4 year college is hypothetical or a proper option).

    It is v. kind of you to take such an interest. I know that in my mother’s case it was two Aunts, both of whom were college education, who encouraged her. Bless my grandmother but she had all she could do to keep body and soul together without worrying about my mom, who was the “good” one.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      She has broken a family record for number of years before getting pregnant! (With 2 years to spare too!)

      The nearest 4 year school is well over 2 hours away. Without matriculating (and getting the corresponding financial aid) she’s still got the same problems with cost of living as the community college, only more so.

      There’s some online options (which are more expensive), but some classes do not have them. Also we don’t think an online option for her math classes is a good idea– we want to see where she tests into and then hire a tutor for her to just take one math class this summer. Hopefully she can get over that hurdle with math given some hand-holding and go back to getting passing grades in math and science classes.

      • feMOMhist Says:

        well good for her for breaking the pg record. That is most crucial IMHO

        was thinking of one online classes just to get feet wet, in some sort of negligible sort of g.e. intro to … 100 level course, build up her confidence, keep her from getting pg etc.

        Hopefully the collective wisdom of the blogosphere will be able to come up with something more

      • femmefrugality Says:

        I hate online classes, but that was going to be my suggestion, too. They even skype in tutors for things like math, now. Turking is kind of a waste of time in my experience. There’s other, more efficient ways to make money online. Is she any good at writing? She could try her hand at freelancing.

  3. M Says:

    There are four-year colleges and then there are four-year colleges. Not all of them are selective. Has she at least applied to the local four-year school? I teach at a four-year school that sees it as part of its mission to work with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and I’m pretty sure we’d admit someone with iffy grades but good test scores.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      She doesn’t have good test scores. There are non-selective private schools (with poor endowments and high tuitions) she could get into, but she can’t get into any of the state 4-year schools, which in our state, require you to be in the top half of your class unless your testscores are higher than hers are. Some states have non-selective state schools and selective state schools. This state does not, but it does have a fairly high quality community college system and a formal transfer method.

      • Leah Says:

        fair enough. I was going to mention my high school boyfriend, who managed to go to a 4 year college with a 1.9 GPA and a whopping 1040 SAT. He kept trying to get me to transfer to his school :-/

        I really feel for your relative. She definitely needs to find a way to work this out. The grade thing is particularly frustrating to me — hard to think issues earlier in school are holding her back so much.

  4. Dr. O Says:

    We’ve almost always lived in good places for school, except for a short time in my younger years when we lived in the boonies. I never realized how lucky we were, to be raised in an environment where college was just an obvious part of the equation. Even if we knew scholarships would be helpful, and even if we knew some college loans would be needed. We were sort of “bred” for going to college.

    I hope you don’t mind the added advice, but I’m wondering – Has she looked at student loans to subsidize some living and transportation costs? I know they can be a bitch to pay back, but Hubby was able to get two different bachelors and a masters degree, nearly 100% on loans and Pell (the first bach), after his father passed away and he lost his full scholarship during his first semester of college. He’s thinking they would be calculated after the Pell and any expected family contributions are calculated into the mix. He says, in fact, transportation is a line item on the loan paperwork. Hubby also made some extra money to fill in the holes by cleaning homes with his sister-in-law. Odd jobs like that can bring in much more money than you’d think if you’re willing to work very hard, especially when the alternative is a minimum wage job. It’s just a matter of finding people in her area who need and are willing to pay to get their house cleaned. Or yard work, maybe.

    It is a lot harder than privileged think to raise yourself up by your bootstraps, especially when you haven’t been taught to plan for college since you were very young. Hubby was lucky – he was always too scared of getting into trouble to do anything but be as perfect as possible, so he was able to rise way above his family’s *status*. He insists there are still ways, but you need a LOT of dedication. It also sounds like she has good family support with you guys; that could end up meaning quite a bit over the next few years. It definitely has for Hubby’s nephew and nieces.

    • Cloud Says:

      I agree- those who have never had to do it (or seen anyone doing it up close) can be remarkably naive about how easy it is to pull yourself out of poverty.

      To the original question- Your cousin is in a really tough spot. She is lucky to have someone like you in her corner, helping her figure out a way forward.

      Does she have internet access at all? Or could it be procured for her for not much money? I’ve heard of people managing to make OK money using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

      One of the members of my extended family who found himself constrained by bad choices made very young joined the military, and has done really well. Of course, he was driving convoy trucks in Iraq for awhile, so that path was quite a risky one.

      Another cousin who struggled a bit managed to turn himself into a mechanic, and is also doing well.

      Unfortunately, another cousin went the “get pregnant and then get pregnant again” route, and is still struggling, along with her kids. She seems unable to recover from some of the early bad choices, and from where I sit, it looks like she’s just compounding them with more bad choices- but I am not particularly close to that branch of the family, so I do not know the full story.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        She has internet access. Her mom is currently picking up some additional income selling through Etsy. I hadn’t seen Mechanical Turk before, though I wonder if it’s one of those things where unskilled labor goes way too cheap because of the competition, but skilled labor does well.

      • Cloud Says:

        I don’t know how the Mechanical Turk work breaks down. I do know that cognitive science folks have started using it for research- so it is like a remote version of “volunteer for a psych project” that so many of us used to get extra cash in school. It is unlikely to be a viable solution to the money problem- but it might help her start building up some savings to eventually use towards a car.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        She’ll have to look into it!

      • Leah Says:

        Unless the cousin is good at some niche thing, MechTurk won’t pay all that well. At a minimum, she’d have to work more than a few hours to make an hour’s worth of minimum wage. I used to transcribe audio recordings on there (no job, and I was often bored). I did make money, but not enough to add up in any substantial way. I had a BS at that time, and I found substitute teaching was a significantly better use of my time.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That is a really good point about transportation. I know they can’t use 529 money (the two oldest each have about 1.5K that we put in there) for transportation, but it’s good to know that loans can cover that. They’re probably going to be limited in terms of loans to what *she* can take out. The parents don’t have great credit.

      Unfortunately not a whole lot of market for housecleaning or yard work (or baby sitting– everyone just leaves kids with family). Just in the retirement communities and she’s applied for those jobs and been turned down. It’s a really bad employment environment. The alternative isn’t a minimum wage job– those don’t exist either.

  5. rented life Says:

    I worked att he four year college that students went to when they couldn’t get into anywhere else. While they could technically get into a CC, they went to my school instead. They were like your niece–poor, had a rough time with everything, but wanted to go to school. It was a challenging school to work at but I miss it so much. Many of those private non-selective schools have TONS of options in place for financial aid and grants, you just need to advise her to conintually insist at the admissions office “I want to be here, I have no money.” Because they’ll make it happen. So it *is* an option.

    Many of the state CC’s where I live are adding dorms. This allowed my niece to go to college, she wouldn’t have otherwise. She can’t drive, couldn’t get a job, her parents are pretty hands off. Many of my colleagues are opposed to the CC I’m working at getting dorms (they’re being built as we speak), but the benefit is so clear. Transportation has been an issue at nearly every school I’ve worked at and dorms are so helpful.

    Could she go to an out of state CC? That has dorms?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We haven’t looked at CCs with dorms, but we looked at the CC here (not that we can have her this summer because of other circumstances) and the CC where her mom lives. The out-of-state costs at both were really high. We’d be better off just paying her car costs.

      We also looked at financial aid packages at the less selective private school that’s an hour and a half away (we have a relative who recently retired from it). With financial aid it gets the cost down to what a state school is without financial aid. That’s a huge drop, but it’s still 10K/year. I’m not sure there’s much benefit going to a non-selective private school over a community college and transferring to a more highly rated state school in two years.

  6. becca Says:

    I realize this may not be feasible, but if her Mom cannot get work anyway, couldn’t she drive her daughter? I mean, the daughter would have to schedule classes to be solidly in the middle of the younger kid(s) school day, so mom can still get them off to school and be there for them when they get back, if they are not of an age to handle themselves. But maybe Mom could even look for a job near the college, so they could commute in together (if the college area has better opportunities than the town they live in- I’m making an assumption the college isn’t out in the middle of nowhere)? Or maybe Mom could take one class over there so that she can use their libraries and computer labs to use the internet to look for work? Not a great long term plan, probably, but if it did result in employment, maybe there’d be more money to work another angle.
    Unless you meant ‘bio-mom’ who cannot find a job, and she is not the one in the household?

    To be honest, if you really want to increase your niece’s chances of completion, statistically the best thing you could probably do is to get her as far past the developmental math sequence as possible. Longer developmental sequences correspond to poorer degree completion rates, even controlling for scores on placement exams! This is probably because of how incredibly depressing it is to be told you are not doing ‘college level’ work, and the financial aid headaches that can come with nontransferable credit. And, possibly, because hand holding in math does not lead to confidence?

    I say this with the caveat that I definitely benefited from my developmental math class, and I had one of the very kindest and most encouraging math teachers imaginable for it, and it gave me a great start. That said, I hadn’t already ‘tried and failed’ at algebra in a classroom setting, so I wasn’t a typical student in it. I do think math is particularly hard to learn online for someone who already has math anxiety, and I do think it’s nice to be able to concentrate on only one math class without a heavy course load of other things to distract you (it’s almost ideal to start in the summer, even if it’s accelerated).

    For what it’s worth, my transportation solution was to befriend someone who had a very ancient Chevy Blazer and always have money for gas. But of course, with old cars come reliability woes. We had a bus that took 1-2 hours to get you there (for a 20 min. drive by car) that our other friend used as backup, but I was lucky enough to have my Dad in a pinch.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s complicated… essentially the family has one reliable working car, and the dad needs it to get to work over an hour away in a different direction (the original company he worked for went out of business, now he’s making less money farther away… they can’t move because they’re way underwater on the house among other things… another long story). She has another car but it is not safe for long-distances so they only use it around town. They used to have a nice jeep but I think it must have gotten repossessed when the mom lost her job.

      The mom doesn’t have a high school degree and has tried to get her GED, but has worse math anxiety than her kids and is not interested in trying again any time soon. (We’ve talked about it. Now is not the time. They have other pretty serious family emergencies going on right now and she’s trying to quit smoking too.)

      The bio-mom lives half a country away.

      She’s done math without hand-holding and gotten progressively worse grades (C, D, F, F). A semester with someone on the side helping her fill in gaps can only help. As someone who has been that hand-holder I can say that a semester of tutoring can work wonders in confidence in later classes.

      We’re fairly sure there’s a lot of regular car-pools going to the community college from this town. She should be able to join a couple– just needs the money to kick in for gas.

  7. anandi Says:

    Oh wow, this whole post and comments hurts my heart since I am one of those privileged where there was NO question I’d go to an (excellent) four year school, and EVERYTHING I did was for that goal. And only because my parents pushed me – I was not savvy enough to understand what it took myself – I can’t imagine getting it together in high school with no support like that.

    A couple of thoughts: sometimes private schools are actually more likely to kick in A LOT of financial aid and give people the benefit of the doubt, than your state schools with oodles of applicants. Especially if you can go in and talk to someone in financial aid and admissions about the options. I went to a school with 800 undergrads (small) and know several of my classmates had a conversation with the Director of Financial Aid, which made it possible for them to attend.

    Same may be true for community colleges – is there an advising office, etc that can point her to scholarships she may be able to apply for re: transportation costs and living costs? I heard something on the radio talking about a LOT of scholarship money going unclaimed every year, esp for small private ones.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    When no one will hire you, you can go into business for yourself. This is tough in a depressed area, but she can at least advertise for babysitting or tutoring jobs, just in case. She might also be able to sell some of her creations locally (from shops or even from other people’s garage sales) or on ETSY.

    Are any government or church services available to her, or will they be when she turns 18?

    Are there any co-ops or other cheap ways to live near the college she can get into? (By “near,” I mean within walking or biking distance.) Could she be a nanny there or get some other kind of live-in helper job? (American Red Cross has some low-cost first aid, CPR, and babysitting courses that might help her look good for that.)

    The homesickness also sounds like a real problem, too. Do any of her friends also want to go to that town or another more useful one? Does she have any relatives she likes in better locations that she could move in with, even just with a sleeping bag?

    Well, there’s also hitchhiking to a different part of the country, being homeless/squatting, and dumpster diving for food. (I once heard of a student who was homeless for a while when after being disowned by the parents–I forget why, being gay or choosing an unapproved major or something.) Then there’s bank robbery or prostitution. But I’m guessing you prefer GOOD ideas.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Her mom sells stuff on Etsy. Nobody in town uses baby-sitting– it’s all barter and family.

      She’s currently on SChip. Her dad is an atheist.

      Don’t know about co-ops near school, but I presume the rent cost would be about the same as transportation. Also don’t know anything about job opportunities in the CC town, though I assume they’re better since it doesn’t look anywhere near so depressed when we drive through it on the way to and from the airport.

      Several students in her year should be doing the same commute, though they may not know it until March when they realize they can’t afford/didn’t get into the college of their choice.

      You forgot becoming a meth dealer/maker– that’s one of the more lucrative opportunities in town. Though I understand the profit margins on drug dealing/making have decreased a lot since these legal synthetics have come on the market. (Making the fortune of gas stations just outside the town limits since the synthetics can no longer be sold in town.)

      • Debbie M Says:

        Well, salvia may still be an option.

        Yep, sounds like carpooling is the answer–cheaper transportation plus no homesickness. Assuming the carpooling would be reliable. Meanwhile, auto insurance is so expensive for the young!

        To answer your actual question though, I don’t know anyone who’s stuck where nobody’s hiring. I do know someone with two felonies–he’s living with his parents and getting certified in various computer stuff. He occasionally finds small graphic artist jobs on Craigslist and has gotten a few computer temp jobs. I don’t know how a real job search will go for him.

        When I got out of college, I moved in with my parents, who live in a gigantic suburb with nothing but houses and retail. So I got a fast-food job in walking distance until I could save enough for a car so I could apply for a real job so I could move out. I should have paid cash for a reliable super-used car (ah, so clueless), but instead I got semi-used mediocre model with a loan from my mom’s lender in the nick of time before he left. (My parents had just declared bankruptcy, so getting them to co-sign for a car loan would not have helped my case, but this one guy trusted my mom and me anyway and gave us loans–which we totally paid.)

        Your relative has lots of people, now, even total strangers, all hoping for the best for her! She has a tough road ahead in the near future, even if everything goes perfectly for the next few years (math starts clicking, she gets reliable transportation, she finds a good educational goal she can pursue, etc.), and some things are bound to go wrong. So, if it helps, let her know that lots of people are wishing her well, and that it’s quite possible to do really hard things–it may just take a while.

  9. Linda Says:

    Having grown up in a major metropolitan area, I take good public transit for granted. Even in the ‘burbs, we have bus service and trains.

    It sounds like what she really, really needs is to get away from that economically depressed town she lives in. It takes time and opportunity to build a network that can offer you comparable care/support to what most of us get from our families, and to build confidence as an independent adult. So your plan to help her with the CC is really meaningful here as it will get her started down that path.

    Hopefully once she gets to CC she will take advantage of the new connections she’s making. Maybe she’ll even find a housing situation that works for her. In the neighborhoods close to one of the major outlying CCs in my area, homeowners often rent out rooms to students. A situation like that could really help with her transportation issues, get covered by financial aid (most likely student loans), and help her make another step towards independence.

    Another option that isn’t often considered is one of the community service programs like AmeriCorps. There are national and state programs where no college education is required: http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/choose/state_national.asp

    While in national service a person gets some funds to live on, builds skills and a network, and earns money for college. While housing isn’t part of the support, many of the national service offices do their best to locate housing options for the people in their service programs, and there is a network of alum who may offer connections for housing.

    I was in an AmeriCorps/VISTA program for a year and I learned a lot from that experience and used it as a springboard to graduate school. Neither my sister or I took the standard route to finish our post-secondary education. While I was always academically-oriented and a very good student, I had too many disruptive things going on in my life between 17 and 19. When I wrapped up high school I took a year off, left town, moved in with my BF and did odd jobs to make ends meet. In the process I regained my enthusiasm for education and grew up a lot. I started undergrad at 19 and completed my degree four years later. I never regret taking that year off.

    My sister dropped out of college to get married (to a real loser who she later divorced), had a daughter, and went to work. She enrolled in colleges/programs on and off over the next 12+ years, and finally finished up her BA when her daughter was finishing high school. She built a very successful career by that time and is in a senior position making excellent money. It can be done with a little help/support from family, friends, and compassionate others.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a really great comment.

      I had heard of Americorps, but didn’t know they took people who weren’t college graduates. Are they like teach for America in the way that you have to be a pretty high scorer to qualify?

      • Linda Says:

        I popped a link to their website in the comment. I think it has more info on what sorts of programs are available and the application criteria. It may be worth a try. If she gets accepted, she’ll still need support to move to the town where the program is located and perhaps even some “seed money” until she gets settled into a situation. AmeriCorps also requires that volunteers not actively enroll in school during their one-year commitment (since volunteers are supposed to be working full-time in their program), but she could still do math tutoring to catch up during that time. But this could be a way to get her relocated and settled into a city/town that has more diverse opportunities for post-secondary education, as well as public transit. She’d make friends/connections through her program, too.

        Oh, one more thing about national service. At the time I completed mine I was told that national service alum got preference in federal government hiring, too; not as much “weight” as ex-military folks, but worth something nonetheless. I’ve never followed up on that since I found a great job in the private sector, but its nice to know that if I do apply for a federal job one day that I get a bit of boost.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, it’s not really specific on how they select people as far as I can tell. But something she may be interested in looking into.

  10. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    We’d be better off just paying her car costs.

    Don’t forget to consider the opportunity cost (and physical and mental stress cost) to your niece of spending >2 hours per day driving to and from school. Assuming she will be sleeping 8 hours per day, that is about 15% of her waking hours spent totally non-productively vis-a-vis her educational and career goals.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Or the emotional cost of an 18 year old being on her own for the first time in her life and not in a dorm setting (see previous linked post for her first week away from home at camp)? My SIL got severe depression in such a situation and ended up transferring schools (also some drama disappearing to visit a Canadian guy she met on the internet who fortunately turned out to be an 18 year old and not a 53 year old child molester as we feared when she wasn’t in her apartment to be picked up the first day of break). She was much better off in a dorm setting at the new school.

  11. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Americorps paid about $780/mo eight years ago. They are great in the cheerleading area, the training. However, you have no choice where you will go. The housing accommodations I heard of were not great. They do not mentor as they said they did. The guy who oversaw the program helped one young woman from the ghetto to get financing for a 20-year-old Cadillac that needed fixing daily when she had a five-year-old ,paid-for small car that only needed about $200 work for it to run like a top. Of course, this is only one program I know personally, but three people had nothing good to say about their experiences. AmeriCorps will pay money for you to go to college or just spend OR they will pay part of a student loan. The kicker is that you are on call 24/7. If they want you, you cannot say, “I have class.” They especially use the young to send to areas of disaster around the country. If I am not mistaken, you cannot even attend school while in the program…last fact may not be true…lol.

    If she is a teacher in certains depressed areas, she can have a Perkins student loan forgiven. Okay, I may have the wrong loan. $10K of my loan was paid this way. You would be utterly shocked at the areas considered for this program, areas with low income. I live in a gem of a town, nice county, but the overall average income is low. Oh, yeah, they just took 73 dealers off the streets and gave them new homes with striped sunshine. However, this town is nice and safe, so don’t think she will be sent to a dangerous place to teach. I know this all sounds contradictory. But, she will not have to go to a crime-ridden area to teach. You might ask which loans can be forgiven this way.

    I used student loans to live, to drive (gas and car payments), to pay for car, clothes, food, anything. There were no limits as to what I could use it for. However, there were limitations a few years before I got a student loan.

    The driving will take a toll if she drives 5 days a week. However, our cc has classes on M-W-F and some on T-Th. That would be another thing to find out. Plus, she is young and won’t actually die.

    • Linda Says:

      Sounds like our experiences with national service were very different. I was in AmeriCops/VISTA (sometimes referred to as a “domestic Peace Corps”), which is the program for people who already have a BA/BS; maybe the program choices for non-college educated folks are not as good.

      That said, I was not starting out from scratch and on my own. I was already 30, had a personal network in place, and had several years experience working in the non-profit sector. I applied for the program so I could use to make a career change and it worked for me. I was already living in the city where the program was located and relied on public transit to get to and from my program. My living costs were low because of a shared housing situation, too.

      The most important thing for someone who is trying to make a significant lifestyle change is to connect to people who are supportive of it and who will help you along, not drag you down. It sounds like her family — while they may genuinely love her — simply can’t help here because she is trying to follow a very different path than them. Hence the suggestion to get away as soon as she can. It does have to be balanced with her emotional resiliency, though. Not everyone can handle moving away from everything and everyone they know.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Her dad gives her very good advice (he’s learned the hard way with many things, and he has an associates degree that he got when she was a toddler). They just have a lot of kids and no money and no opportunities. They’re definitely supportive!

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        No, the three people in the Americorp program all had a BA degree, one had BA and a MA. All had to commute in a city without public transportation. One was married and her husband supported her. One was from a city 200 miles away. The other was on her own. The program was abused by two of the Americorp persons.

    • Quail Says:

      I’ve been reading here for a few months now and have to jump in to share my Americorps experience/limited knowledge. Americorps and Americorps VISTA are two related, but different, programs, as far as I remember (I was a VISTA 2006-7 and had a great experience.) There are Americorps programs that will accept people with a high school diploma – I think the conservation program(NCCC) and the Americorps State program. VISTA requires a 4-year degree or equivalent life experience.

      For VISTA you got to apply directly to a non-profit who had been awarded a VISTA position, much like applying for any job, though your pay and insurance came through the Americorps office and not the non-profit. As such, the quality of your experience depends on the organization at which you work. I am not sure about the other programs, but I really doubt that you are just assigned somewhere. It is not like the Peace Corps in that respect, and many communities want to have locals in the positions. I met a few working single moms, older folks, and others who were using Americorps State programs to get a foot in the door or just have a job. Sometimes you will still qualify for state aid like childcare, food stamps, or whatever (this sometimes requires negotiation with the benefits office, but can be done, and our Americorps office was happy to help.)

      The idea behind being “on call” 24-7 is pushed much harder for VISTAs, who are often young college grads (though not always.) Even with that, I worked a strict 9-5 in a relaxed non-profit housing organization and was never really “on-call” – I made spreadsheets and presented to the city council. For the other positions, I think it is a 10 month commitment, you get paid slightly more than the VISTAs (which was 110% of the poverty line in your region), and the rules on part-time jobs and part-time college are slightly less strict. I could be wrong about that – and as with any rule like that, the enforcement is dependent on the local Americorps office.

      Anyhow, I think it could be a good option if there is still federal funding for the program and your relative keeps a wary eye for abusive employers, just like with any job offer. It does give you education help (about $4000 I think) once you’ve completed the program and it gives you an up in the government hiring process.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Thanks for the information!

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        As of 2006, the only way that an Americorp volunteer could get food stamps was if the food stamps were already in place before hiring. The program did not place people who could do the job. One young woman who had never had anything but a poptart and Yahoo for breakfast in her life, used layaway as a means to save up money, and did not have anyone in her family who had a relationship with a bank for checking, thought that a McD salad with two creamy dressings, 2 croutons, etc, was a means to lose the 100 lbs she needed to lose, was assigned to a job helping people with finances to purchase a first time home. She was as clueless as they were and often gave very poor advice. Oh, she had never eaten lettuce, so she left that in the salad bowl.

        More time was spent training her on the job than she spent on helping people. She knew nothing about home ownership, finances, or banking. She had a BA and no education.

        The other young woman went from Daddy to husband, spent freely, knew nothing about homebuying, saving or the banking relationship that was always maintained by Daddy or husband. It was a disaster.

  12. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I do know that if you work anywhere for one hour pay, you are relieved of your position. The director had just let one young woman go her way when he found out she worked elsewhere.

  13. J Liedl Says:

    Another option nobody has raised is the prospect of staying a further year in high school to raise some of those grades. That, of course, would depend on having a nurturing high school environment there, which I suspect from your story is not at all the case. And someone to advocate for her, support her with a tutor, etc. But many students hereabouts, mediocre or medal-winning, choose to stay for a fifth year in high school if they don’t know what exactly they want to do in higher education. With youngest, that’s been our plan from day one since autism makes it difficult for youngest to integrate into a full schedule of classes.

    If there’s a co-op program with the high school, that could be another option to build some work experience (we know teens who’ve co-oped in a law office, vet practice, community agency and, sadly, also a McDonald’s).

    I hope that she can get the support she needs to find her path and pursue it. If she does go to the CC, make sure they have a tried-and-true articulation policy with nearby 4-years if that could be at all an option. Too many good students have had their transfer credits gutted when walking in the door of a university thanks to indifferently-administered articulation agreements.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If she doesn’t pass the “applied” math classes she’s taking now, she may actually *have* to stay another semester. Though I think a developmental class this summer at the CC could be used to fill that credit if necessary. With two younger sibs in the same high school next year, it’s probably not an option she would prefer!

      Our entire state system is set up for transfers to 4 year colleges. It’s really well organized and very clear exactly what has to be taken. The Midwest is kind of awesome like that– I know that’s definitely not the situation in the state where I work now (another reason we’re leery about the possibility of her moving down here). She’s been getting the message about gen eds from lots of people (she emailed and asked, “What are these general classes that [people] keep telling me I need to take?”)

      We’re not sure if there’s still a co-op program at that high school. It’s possible that’s something that’s been cut in the past decade or two. We could ask.

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