A Common Belief in Education Accessibility

by / 4 Comments / 161 View / July 20, 2014

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to help execute the annual I Have a Dream Foundation gala, an event designed to raise money to fund college educations for kids from low-income backgrounds. The event was, in many ways, awkward and ironic because it attempted to mix the very lowest on the social ladder with those who were on top. Many times throughout the night, I found it fascinating to observe kids from the slums and projects, who spoke in slang, attempt to converse with their well-spoken and highly educated donors, who were wealthy, powerful executives who had made their fortunes in the corporate world.

The corporate world is lush with characterizations of greed and corruption, which lead poor people to often blame their economic situations on the affluent individuals listed in Forbes magazine. It doesn’t seem fair to the single mother trying to raise three kids while working multiple jobs when she sees celebrities blow thousands of dollars on luxury items while she struggles to have enough money for groceries. It is not fair to the college student who is burdened with financing her own education when her friends complain about not being able to visit Iceland on the way back from a Europe trip for Spring Break. It is simply not fair.

Prior to my experience at I Have a Dream, I shared this sentiment of indignation leveled at the billionaires of the world – I wondered why some figures were blessed with a ridiculous sum of money while there were others in third world countries dying of starvation and poverty. By virtue of this opinion, I was on guard during the beginning of the gala, misguided by the belief that the affluent were eager to donate to nonprofit organizations like this one out of insincere motives and PR stunts.

But when I started talking to the wealthy patrons at the event, my perspective began to shift. The people I had expected to be full of greed and self-interest expressed compassion and love towards the children they were funding. While money was a motivating factor for some, I discovered that success, both theirs and of others, was a priority that outweighed any monetary considerations. And as I immersed myself in discourse with people with whom I had nothing in common, I found comfort in the solidarity we shared in helping education accessibility for the poor, unprivileged, and weak.

At the conclusion of the evening, I had the chance to watch five elementary students from low-income homes read out loud stories they had written during school. These five, along with thousands of others across the country, will obtain a college education thanks to the contributions of generous donors and the amazing professionals at the I Have a Dream Foundation. Not every student who is a part of the system is guaranteed to succeed in it, but my hope, along with the hope of many of the patrons present at the gala that night, is to see them flourish, because to succeed in education means to succeed in life.

  • Su King

    Interesting perspective. I was in a program and for our graduation we mingled with donors of the program. I actually didn’t get to talk with a lot of the donlrs which is unfortunate but they did seem genuinely interested. I think some affluent do care about their cause. It’s great that this foundation has people who are compassionate and care about what they’re doing.

  • Flora K

    You say that in talking to these wealthy people, you discovered that they actually do care about less privileged people. What exactly were some things that they said that made it apparent that they actually do care?

    I wonder if they would still be committed to financially supporting causes of educational access and inequality if they all would have to do it through anonymous donations.

    I recently attended a scholarship fundraising gala at a country club(15k over 4 years, total of 50 kids that were receiving the scholarship) and it was like pulling teeth to get any of the wealthy people to mingle with us. We wanted to network with these people—thank them for donating money—and gain some more perspective on the working world. Most of them, if approached, would talk for a few minutes, all the while making it obvious that we were taking time away from their conversations with their other golf buddies and wine and dinner.

    At the event I attended at least(I was one of the people to receive a scholarship) it was obvious that all these people were just there to make an appearance, donate money, eat food and get out.

    Which was a sentiment that was shared by a lot of my fellow scholarship recipients.

  • Jake Kohlhepp

    Flora K: I feel as if you find it wrong that people could do things like donate for ulterior motives. Sure, it is more noble when people do things for the right reasons. I think it is crucial for my own individual moral conscience to do so, for both religious and personal reasons. However, your post seems to the point of scorning donors for ever doing something for personal gain. If the donors receive positive externalities from donating, why does it matter? A child who desperately needs the money receives it. A good cause is helped. It is better to judge people on more visible and objective actions rather than on perceived motivation. Just a thought.

  • http://www.templecommunications.org Terry Buttwilder

    so you’re saying if I’m disabled I shouldn’t even get to do an education? my rustic friends do not have any arms and they are still very smart.