As the Dean of Access and Equity and administrator of the Full Access Program, I have the awesome privilege of providing resources or financial assistance to under-resourced students in all divisions of our school —regardless of race or ethnicity— to enable them to fully participate in school programs. When I think about equity and equality, my primary goal in leading the Full Access Program is to ensure that everyone in the program gets what they specifically need to be successful. In doing so, that doesn’t mean that every student in the program will be provided with exactly the same resources or level of financial assistance. Part of my joy in supporting the over 90 Full Access students in the program this school year comes from knowing that by addressing individual rather than group needs, I am connecting with students where they are, and directing funding to where it can do the greatest good.
I’ll share a funny story: As a wrestling coach, I confess to knowing very little about the sport of lacrosse and I know even less about the nuances associated with the equipment used. As a result, I always feel a little nervous when a Full Access lacrosse player approaches me requesting new or replacement lacrosse equipment. In fact, I never take it upon myself to make the purchase without the lacrosse player looking directly over my shoulder. In placing an order for lacrosse equipment for a Full Access student about a week ago, I decided to attend to my ignorance about lacrosse items and asked the student to clearly identify for me the different parts of a lacrosse stick. With a lacrosse stick in hand, the student happily and quite effectively explained the butt, the shaft (defensive and offensive), the head, mesh, and other stringing materials associated with a lacrosse stick. By differentiating the various parts of the lacrosse stick, it helped to allay my anxiety about having to constantly replace the entire stick (a very expensive piece of equipment), especially given how often players break the shaft of the stick. Fortunately, as a result of this brief lacrosse stick tutorial, I was able to see that oftentimes the Full Access student only needs a specific part of the lacrosse stick replaced in order to get back up and running.
With this newfound lacrosse stick knowledge, I have come to see the various parts of a lacrosse stick as being illustrative of how I have always approached allocating financial resources to individual Full Access students. By addressing specific individual needs, I am able to stretch limited Full Access dollars to students engaged in school programs where funding is most needed. As a result, the size of a Full Access grant offered sometimes doesn’t address 100% of the cost of an event, activity, or item, but just enough to make it possible for a student to fully participate.
Back to the lacrosse item purchase, I placed the order for a new lacrosse stick shaft and it arrived in a short three days. When I handed the package to the lacrosse player this morning, like so many other such moments, I immediately discerned the player’s delight and gratitude. Over the course of just the past two weeks, Full Access has supported students with allowances, transportation costs to travel home, pharmacy costs, tutorial services, summer course fees, AP exams, “Senior Week” and Commencement expenses, and other resources.
I love my role in the Full Access Program because it affirms a genuine commitment on the part of Westtown School to level the playing field (equality) for all students. When Full Access helps an under-resourced student, it is done with the goal of allowing them to expand their interest and to remain up and running.In doing so, such resources clearly enhance their sense of belonging at school and their desire to contribute.
Helping students is why I enjoy my role in the Full Access Program. My only request of the lacrosse player was that he score a goal for me! Update: The team lost the game, but the player scored two goals!