By Analisa Sofia Perez, Alisha Redmond, Inderpal Sivia and Christina Velez
Rainier Office Manager Lupe Trujillo is always trying to do what she can to provide for the underprivileged students at her school. “What I’ve tried to do aside from that is just, you know, have like a share bin,” she explained. The share bin is located in the office throughout the day; it has leftover food from lunch and fruit the staff purchased. At Summit Rainier, a large percentage of students come from low-income families. The school tries to provide aid for these students.
School comes with various expenses. Many students rely on the different programs their school is able to provide for access to meals, field trips or other school-related activities.
Free and reduced lunch
Some might question, why doesn’t everyone get free or reduced lunch? The free or reduced lunch program, or National School Lunch Program, is a federal program, meaning the requirements for it are based more on a nationwide average rather than being state specific.
The NSLP doesn’t take into account where a student lives and the average amount their family would need to earn to live comfortably in their state or city. In some cases, this determines whether certain families qualify for free or reduced lunch regardless of the fact that they are low-income.
For a better understanding, imagine living in Mississippi. According to a CNBC study based on 2016 data, the average home price in that state is $199,028. Compare that to California, where the average home price is around $393,000, according to 2015 Zillow.com data cited by the Sacramento Bee.
The application forms for the NSLP do show that it does consider household size. For example, let’s say the average household size for California is three people: to qualify, that household would need to make a minimum of $54,427. There’s no doubt that it’s a big difference, and often times it can affect parts of your daily life, like not being able to qualify for the NSLP.
The issue that people like Mrs. Trujillo have with NSLP is why whether or not they get free or reduced lunch is measured the same even with completely different costs of living. She said, “To me, the threshold should be different for places that have the cost of living so high as it is in California.”
Although there are some complications regarding who qualifies for free or reduced lunch, it still benefits many students. According to Mrs. Trujillo, around 48 percent qualify at Summit Rainier which is nearly half the school. However, more people could possibly qualify if the United States took into account where the students live.
Not qualifying for the NSLP can also affect these students because they aren’t being offered the advantages of a qualified student. In the East Side Union High School District, being eligible for this program means being offered to have SAT/PSAT/AP test fees waived, a Comcast internet plan and even having college application fees waived.
Mrs. Trujillo explained that if certain students were for some reason not eligible for the NSLP, that it would be up to Summit’s administrators to create simple solutions, like leaving leftover food in bins found in central areas like the office and the lunch line area. This is a clear example of how seriously the school takes the well-being of all of their students.
One of the biggest disadvantages that the financially underprivileged students of Summit Rainier experience is not being able to afford to pay the fees to take AP or SAT/PSAT tests. The whole test-taking process is a crucial part in the path to higher education, and, for these students, not being given that opportunity simply because they can’t afford it is unfair and unfortunate.
The fees for the AP and SAT/PSAT tests might not seem like too much to some, but, to a large portion of our student population, they can seem pretty costly. Currently, to take an AP test, you have to pay $94; to register to take the SAT, the fee ranges from $48 to $64.50, depending on the type of SAT test you take.
As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, students coming from low-income backgrounds might not be able to pay those prices, but qualifying for the NSLP can actually help with this. Some of the advantages of being eligible for this program include having the SAT/PSAT/AP test fees waived. Summit Rainier tries to make sure that this information is easily accessible by sending letters regarding the NSLP home with students.
At Summit Rainier, every junior is able to take one AP test for free, and the seniors are able to take two tests. This is yet another example of how the school caters to the needs of its students in areas where it truly matters.
This is easily considered one of the best benefits a student from a low-income family can get from attending Summit Rainier versus another school, where they might not get as much attention and assistance. “We make sure that every single student has access to the college-going culture,” Mrs. Trujillo said. “Our money goes to those things … It goes to making sure we do everything that we can to prepare students to meet or exceed the requirements to get into college.”
One other way Summit Rainier helps its families is by offering to help pay any extra fees needed in order to attend field trips. For example, in many cases, every student needs to pay a ride fair. Often times students are able to pay this fee, but, in the situations where they can’t, the administrators and parents step in.
Rainier English teacher Sunli Kim explained how the school finds funding to help those who are unable to pay field trip fees. She was very open about the whole process and spoke of it positively, talking about how it helped many students.
For a recent field trip to Angel Island, Ms. Kim and Mrs. Trujillo helped students who could not donate the $20 needed in order to pay for a ferry ride. Other teachers and parents donated more money to the students who were not able to give $20.
In a scenario where Summit Rainier didn’t assist in paying these fees, a student who was unable to pay that $20 would not have been able to board the ferry, and they would have missed the field trip entirely. In whatever scenario, whether the trip was educational or not, missing it would most likely have had a negative impact on the student.
Parents and administrators help
Administrators and parents took their own time without pay to aid these students. This demonstrates the dedication the Summit Rainier community has to these students.
As a result, there is a lot being done for the disadvantaged students of this school that people don’t always notice. Rainier Assistant Office Manager Adriana Sanchez summarized those efforts by citing the school motto: “Leave no Bulldog behind.” From giving extra help with the free and reduced lunch program to providing financial help to pay for AP tests and field trips, Summit Rainier staff have made it clear that they’re doing what they can to ensure a smooth school year for students coming from low-income families.
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