The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Rock Bridge is the rich school, right?

Closing the achievement gap is more than a matter of financial aid

Nothing is harder for talented and driven students than choosing between practicality and their dreams.
Junior Anthony Robinson is on the A honor roll and one of the debate team’s most decorated members. He’s obviously intelligent, but his brain isn’t the only thing that will matter when he makes his post-high school plans.
“The colleges I want to go to are costly, and my family just doesn’t have the money to pay for them. The colleges that are cheaper don’t really catch my interest. But I suppose beggars can’t be choosers,” Robinson said. “While expensive, I have always believed that every capable and worthy person deserves a chance at a higher education. I’ve [been] in support [of] reducing college expenses as much as possible for quite some time.”
[quote cite=”junior Anthony Robinson”]The only time these two groups seem to ever interact is when an adult forces them to or they’re in conflict. The other always think they are making a non-fallible point or joking. I can recall being targeted and to my own shame targeting others of different socioeconomic status.[/quote] At a school like RBHS, it is an assumption that every student has the ability to go on to college; according to RBHS’s guidance page, 80 percent of students go onto college, but the other 20 percent cannot be forgotten.
“It’s public school, so I can understand why there is a financial gap between students, but that spills over into social status. Usually the poor people are friends with the other poor people, and it’s the same for well off people,” Robinson said. “The only time these two groups seem to ever interact is when an adult forces them to or they’re in conflict. The other always think they are making a non-fallible point or joking. I can recall being targeted and to my own shame targeting others of different socioeconomic status.”
So the question arises of how to close this “financial gap” in regards to how it translates to student opportunities to pursue higher education and leave the realms of poverty.

Junior Jodie Bappe holds the A+ program application form. The program allows high achieving high school students to attend a two-year community college at no cost to them. Feature photo by Sury Rawat
In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced his proposal for free community college education for all high school students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average. If all 50 states participate, this proposal could help nine million students save an average of $3,800 in tuition, according to the White House.
“I think it can be a really good thing. We’re at a time where our economy is changing along with globalization and such. Our export status is not very good and our number three export status is trash. So I think whatever we can do to provide more jobs, to increase the economic power of the middle class through education, vocational or technical training, so what we sell, what we market is in high value, and if that’s connected to vocational training to community college, then I think that would be a great thing,” AP United States History teacher Chris Fischer said. “I think anytime you can have a well trained work force, you’re going to do better, right?”
Guidance counselor Dr. Jordan Alexander sees the merit in President Obama’s proposal along with other programs, such as the A+ program which is utilized by many RBHS students.
“We have a similar program in Missouri, as you know, called the A+ program, which requires certain things of students in order to receive that free two year tuition, so I think it’s a great program,” Dr. Alexander said. “We have many Rock Bridge students that do take advantage of the A+ program. I think more money would help even more students to help prepare for their career by giving them the two years free.”
Many families don’t have a myriad of options when facing college tuition due to finances but also oppose the idea of only getting an associates degree at a two year college. Dr. Alexander sees attending a community college for free and then transferring into a four-year college as a perfect solution.Untitled-2
“I think that increasingly with the cost of four-year colleges continuing to rise, it’s just not realistic for families to pay for a four year college tuition. Obviously two years free at a community [college] helps them get two years paid for and then [they can] transfer to a four year school, so they would get that tuition cost for only two years instead of four,” Dr. Alexander said. “I hope that there is some movement towards that happening. I know Tennessee allows people to go to a two year community college for free so hopefully it’ll come to bear and we can get even more students to further their education were fiance is not a bearer.”
But closing the gap between students who can afford attending college and those who cannot is not enough. The gap between students who have an excess of educational opportunities and those who do not is large, and not many are trying to bridge it.
Transportation is a large limiting factor in the extracurricular involvement of many students, as Robinson knows. If a student’s parents work until late at night, and they do not have the means to own their own car, they are essentially barred from clubs or sports teams unless they can work out a ride.
“I am on the debate team and I can only attend the after school meetings on Mondays because I can’t get to school any earlier than my bus,” Robinson said. “Driving myself would solve that but for a teenager who works so much after school everyday and even on the weekends, paying for a car is [still] expensive. Luckily for me I can try to schedule meetings with team members after school but even then having parents that are busy does not guarantee that sometimes.”
Robinson sees the ability of the wealthier students to pay for tutoring that works with their schedules, getting transportation easily among many other things as the true gap that needs to be closed.
“Having activity buses that pick kids up before the regular school buses and take them home later after could help with transportation,” Robinson said. “I think the principle should always take priority over expenses.”
By Abby Kempf

Divorce weakens family income security and student self confidence

Senior Sam Mitten was 14 years old when he found out that his parents were getting divorced, causing him to live in two different houses. This news came with the added pressures of having parents who were now separate from each other, making his responsibilities increasingly more difficult than before.
“The divorce definitely affected my performance in school,” Mitten said. “Switching houses every few days for joint custody meant I was leaving things and opportunities behind at each house. I forgot a lot of homework at the other house when I switched.”
Curators’ Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri Dr. David Geary asserts that anxiety, depression and a decline in academic performance is not unusual for students directly after a parents’ divorce.
“Divorce is not uncommon anymore so there doesn’t seem to be any particular stigma associated with it,” Geary said. “That said, there is sometimes increases in anxiety and depression in children following a divorce, although for most of them this is not long term.”indepth
Dr. Kelly Anderson, outreach counselor, says he offers support to many students at RBHS whose parents have gone through a divorce, causing a variety of problems for the student, reaching as far as financial stress.
“Usually it’s that the father does not pay child support,” Anderson said,  “and in a situation where the mother isn’t used to working because she didn’t have a job, she won’t have a history of working so she’d have to start at a low paying job. Then the family’s income is drastically reduced.”
Mitten experienced this to an extent after his parents’ divorce; however, he said not to an extreme degree like the one described by Anderson. According to a report on divorce by Utah State University, individuals who have divorced would need on average a 30 percent increase of income to maintain their standard of living.
“My parents both made enough to get by after the divorce,” Mitten said. “But with less extra laying around there were fewer things that my brother and I got. I didn’t mind all that much though because I had enough saved to get by until I got a car and a job.”
The divorce of his parents caused a negative emotional effect for Mitten, causing him to be quieter and have a more reserved personality. Mitten says the divorce doesn’t bother him as much anymore, which is in accordance with Geary’s statement that the negative effects are rarely lasting.
“I became a lot more introverted, more focused on keeping myself in one piece than I did anything else,” Mitten said. “The introversion sacrificed a lot of good friendships, a lot of good connections.”
Sophomore Bre Williamson’s parents also got a divorce, which occurred within the last two years. Both Mitten and Williamson had to go between two homes, as is the case of any shared custody divorce. Unlike Mitten, however, Williamson had the extra difficulty of having to move between states to visit parents.
“I had to move back and forth,” Williamson said. “During the summer and winter breaks I go to Texas, although it used to be Louisiana because that’s where I lived. I have different friends in Texas, Louisiana and here, so it’s hard sometimes.”

“I became a lot more introverted, more focused on keeping myself in one piece than I did anything else,” senior Sam Mitten said.

Anderson’s biggest role of supporting students with parents’ divorces is trying to find a way to help them return to their normal lives.
“If they want to talk about it in a private setting, or let some of their feelings out, that’s how I support,” Anderson said. “My goal is to get them to be able to find their own personal way to deal with it, as far as they can make the adjustments to a new life.”
By Luke Chval

Community perception of wealth at high schools fosters negative impacts

“Total: $4.60 = Paying with a 100”
“Does everyone else eat with golden silverware or is that just a #RBlife thing?”
“Just paid for a $5 meal at Sonic with an $100 bill”
“Got tired of our beach house, so now we are at a mountainside cabin”
So goes a quick search of #RBLife on Twitter. Peaking in frequency each year during the week leading up to the Providence Bowl, these tweets often provide a satirical view of the general stereotype of RBHS.
“I have sensed … this idea that Rock Bridge is the rich school, which is kinda the word in the community,” guidance counselor Dr. Samuel Martin, who has worked at RBHS for eight years, said. “That’s been my experience; not really being from Columbia, that’s all I’ve heard about it since I’ve been here.”
To junior Clayton Warder, the common view is “definitely” that RBHS is more wealthy in relation to other Columbia high schools. However, he says this assumption by RBHS students doesn’t create a negative view of Hickman and Battle.
“There are a lot of jokes about the other schools being ‘ghetto’ and other things,” Warder said, “but I’m not sure if people from Rock Bridge – I know, I personally wouldn’t look at someone from Battle and be like, ‘Ugh you poor person,’ or anything.”

Junior Clayton Warder does homework in the EEE room. Warder believes that there is financial discrepancy between the high schools, but that students do not think differently of other students because of it. Photo by Sury Rawat
While there are few blatant aggressions against low-income students, some restrictions are in place on them; lunch policies limit the food options available to them. Columbia Public Schools secondary guidance coordinator and RBHS counselor Betsy Jones said students on free or reduced lunch can’t purchase any a la carte items like Bosco sticks, chips or bottled water. However, the additional support Jones and other faculty members provide by far outweighs those limitations.
“We are operating small food banks out of the guidance office and the copy center room for free and reduced lunch kids who have A lunch because that means they may go a very long period of time before eating,” Jones said. “Then, also, we have some stuff for some families in need to take home with them, so we try to very discreetly but very supportively support our families as needed.“There’s a Bruin Closet that we’ve put together for that,” Jones said. “I run the Bruin Care Account, which is an account that I request from student council to donate and also sometimes we get anonymous donations into that account so that I can buy emergency food or clothing for families. We cannot do utility assistance, but we work directly with the Voluntary Action Center through our outreach counselor to connect our families to the community agencies that they need.”
Although the RBHS faculty helps to facilitate the needs of low-income student, Dr. Martin said some students have told him that they feel uncomfortable.
“One thing I do know that is challenging is that when you have this idea that the model experience at Rock Bridge is upper-middle class, students on the margin socioeconomically can further feel marginalized,” Dr. Martin said. “Sometimes when you’re in an environment where you don’t have what you feel like everybody else has then that heightens your awareness of what you don’t have. So, I definitely have spoken to some students about that, so I know that some folks may feel that way. I think that Rock Bridge’s numbers — if you look at our district profile – we do have a lower number of students that meet federal poverty standards than the other three high schools in town, so that part is what it is.”
In fact, the demographics show that the “RBLife” stereotype may be coming from the statistics. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 40 percent of students in Columbia Public Schools met the requirements for free or reduced lunch (FTE) in 2014. However, only 19.4 percent of RBHS students met those requirements, compared to 32.6 percent at Hickman and a staggering 50 percent at Battle.
Jones, however, doesn’t believe the DESE numbers reveal the full picture of poverty at RBHS.
“I would say that the numbers are skewed at the high school level because they are underreported. This is true nationally, so students don’t report that they need the services,” Jones said. “Our numbers right now, the last I had looked, we were at 23 percent, which puts us up slightly [from the 2014 numbers], but what we do is we send a letter in the summer mailing that helps our families connect to additional programs if they qualify for free and reduced lunch.”
When people see those numbers, like the greater than 30 percent difference between RBHS and BHS, they often jump to conclusions and generalities about each schools’ students, Dr. Martin said.
“I think perception is powerful, and to a certain degree a person’s perception determines the reality they operate in, right?” Dr. Martin said. “You have some people who’ve never been inside the building of Rock Bridge in the community, whether they be students or adults who say, ‘Rock Bridge, always the rich school, I would never want to send my kid there because I know the type of kids [that] go there.’ Then you’ll have people in the community that’ll say ‘Oh, I’ll never send my kid to Battle because these are the bad kids from Oakland,’ which I’ve heard in the community. Or you say, ‘I’ll never send my kids to Hickman because it’s old or dirty.’ So, you hear these things in the community, and I do think it affects — it definitely affects perception or reputation, right?”
With the stereotypical views of the three high schools from the outside comes a certain way of thinking inside the walls of RBHS as well. Sophomore Becca Wells believes although RBHS has the “stigma” of having more wealth, that alone doesn’t define the students that attend the school.
“I’ve known some [people] to be like, ‘If Rock Bridge is the rich, white school, why am I here?’” Wells said. “But, I’ve also known others to get along just fine at Rock Bridge. It’s not like we’re kicking out people because they’re not the top one percent.”
HHS junior Natalia Groshong was in the RBHS boundary lines until Battle opened last year. She says although her family is “financially stable,” she doesn’t feel uncomfortable at Hickman though she does see a stigma of her school being poorer.
“Well, the stereotype that Rock Bridge has all the rich white kids is what most Hickman students think,” Groshong said. “…In general I don’t think [attending RBHS] would be too much different than going to Hickman.”
Despite her belief that much of the perceived differences are only perception deep, Groshong admits that they contribute to a degree of animosity between RBHS and HHS.
“I think there are definitely some bitter opinions between the schools,” Groshong said. “I also think the long time rivalry between the schools causes (and) increases this dislike.”
Despite the common joke and stereotype of RBHS being wealthy, as well as the accompanying awkwardness for disadvantaged students, Dr. Martin still enjoys watching diverse students thrive inside the school.
“The thing I like about Rock Bridge is seeing students come here from, like I say, every fabric of the Columbia community,” Marin said. “So high SES kids, low-income students, students kinda like upper middle class, students like working class, so I’ve seen them thrive here. The thing I like about Rock Bridge is that if you’re willing to carve out the space I think most students are willing to do so and find support, so that part I appreciate.”
By Brett Stover

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