"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A post that began about seminary and ended up as a push for the DREAM Act

There's been a lot of talk about higher education lately.

Last week in Minnesota, I visited Luther Seminary. Then later in the week attended a public class on popular education.

This morning in church, the lay pastor gave his testimony about his recent calls to ministry, including many months of studying to be a diaconal minister and hopefully attending seminary in the near future.

Just tonight, my roommates (also full-time volunteers) and I again shared confusion (and much nasty language) in regards to student loans.

And as always, there are thoughts about the future of El Paso's youth - daily homework time with the middle schoolers, hopeful high school graduates, young adults applying to community college with hope that their legal status won't affect their eligibility.

I'm not exactly sure what I want to say in regards to all this, except that the feelings I'm getting the most out of all this talk are: gratitude and frustration.

I am so grateful to have had post-high school education at a wonderful school that today I greatly appreciate, and to have been able to get a degree in something that absolutely fascinates me. I would not trade my experience for next-to-anything.

But then tonight, I was asked by two eighth grade girls, "Miss, what did you study at college?"

"Religion and Spanish."

"But no, like...what career is that?"

...oh the joys of a liberal arts education. And the joys of explaining my academic experience with middle schoolers who, honestly, don't see any other purpose for college than to get a job. (Maybe I have some things to learn from them.)

Now, as I consider plans for next year, I have been seriously considering applying to the seminary, similar to my lay pastor friend who gave his testimony this morning. But, unlike him, I am not too afraid that my applications for seminary or for candidacy would be rejected or that I would have to consider the possibility of being rejected due to my English language abilities like he was. I also have many options of continuing education online or moving to live near or on-campus somewhere, and I'm not forced to look into other options to continue my education, including having to take a bus 14 hours EVERY weekend to take diaconal ministry classes in LA... like my friend did for months.

See, this is why I am grateful.

But yet, I am so very frustrated. Frustrated because how do I encourage 15-year-olds who are super bright and super eager to go to college to apply to schools in eastern Texas and beyond, when we don't know when or if the outcome of their legal processes will allow them to travel outside of the border checkpoints by that point? Frustrated because we can limit a man with extremely great pastoral skills from actually achieving his lifetime goal of being an ordained minister. Frustrated because the main thing keeping me from applying to seminary is my fear of being more in debt...which yes, is legitimate, I think... but does not compare to the fear of being caught "without papers" at any time like some of the bright, young students with whom I work...those who in the future will hopefully be able to apply to college anywhere they want.

Education has always been a weird thing for me... not because I don't see the value in it, but maybe because I feel like I've had exceptional experiences within it, and that my experiences weren't necessarily as "traditional" as my peers. I'm not sure. But within the realm of being a college student, I first really found who I was, and today continue exploring just who that is. I cannot understand how we can be so limiting on who can and cannot have potentially exceptional experiences, and who can and cannot have those doors opened unto them - doors that will lead to an entirely new world, in which they can finally find themselves and be free.

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