The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives. Today’s is authored by Alex Greenwald ’16.
I didn’t grow up in poverty, but I was surrounded by those who did. About 76 percent of my elementary and high school classmates were on the free lunch program, and for many of them, that was the only meal they got each day. Several of my family members and friends are on some form of government assistance, even though they are able to and do work. As for my parents and I, we were always fine, but never what you would call “well off.”
I was not conscious of any of this until I got to Kenyon, despite the fact that one year on the Hill costs more than my parents earn annually (financial aid is a beautiful thing). However, almost immediately upon arrival in Gambier, I began to realize that my experiences at home put me in a minority here. Among the first things to greet me during orientation was an invitation to a dinner for first-generation students “who may find the transition to college overwhelming,” while legacy students had a private dinner in another room. Later, I found myself in class with students who made comments about “poor people,” describing them as uneducated and uninformed. At first I tried to dispel these misconceptions, but eventually it became clear that I would not succeed. While I have had many empowering, enriching and joyful experiences at Kenyon, the message has been clear: if you don’t come from the same background as most of your classmates, you don’t belong, are assumed to be maladjusted to college life and an uncomfortable anomaly that has to be handled delicately. Continue reading