by Kate Mabus '19
After the college admissions scandal earlier this year, I was scrolling through YouTube one day when a VICE News video with a picture of an STA alumus as the thumbnail caught my eye. In the video two groups of Yale students are interviewed: wealthier students from D.C. (including two Close alumni) and low-income students. During the video, an NCS alumna reflects that during her time at NCS she was on the lower end of the income spectrum and felt less affluent than many of her peers but transitioning to college she came to realize how great the means and privilege of every NCS students are in relationship to the rest of the country. I was surprised by this comment because I had never perceived nor had the slightest clue that this student was considered low-income for NCS.
This alumna’s insight reminded me of Andrea Escoto’s phenomenal Flag Day speech last year in which she shared her experience as a low-income student attending NCS and the feelings of exclusion and inadequacy it brought. Though I was blown away by how good Andrea’s speech was, its ability to move emotions in all of us, I must admit I had doubts about the exclusion she experienced. I am a staunch supporter of NCS and often disagree with the criticism many of us are so eager to give so I couldn’t imagine anyone being judged or excluded because of their income. Maybe because I wasn’t myself.
Through my years at NCS and in D.C., I have noticed a dynamic that the more affluent a group is the less likely they are to contemplate or speak on wealth across the board. Whether that is tripping around exposing your families wealth (whether lack or abundance) or describing yourself as “fortunate”. Because of this tendency, our perceptions become so jaded by the wealth bubble we’re surrounded by on the Close. Which leads us to go into college shocked at our own privilege like the NCS alumna or maybe inconsiderate of the struggle so many things we take for granted is for others. A friend of mine has a sister at UGA who said she would be laughed at for wearing Uggs or Airpods on campus while at NCS we have crossing guards at school that count how many Barbour jackets they see in a day.
However, another consequence is that there are students at NCS who feel excluded for their socio-economic status without their feelings being recognized by the greater community or even worse, as I was so eager to do before, invalidated. While I don’t think there is any blatant exclusion based on wealth there are small, every day scenarios which many think of shaping the “NCS experience” which add up. Like getting a $5 coffee at Open City during ensembles, your own Flag Day dress, driving into the garage in your personal car (let alone the luxury cars that many students have), and the money spent on class swag and spirit wear (which is of course optional but would any of us want to show up to Spirit Day in jeans and a t-shirt), and more than anything the college process.
These are things that I enjoy and which shape what I love about NCS. And, if you can’t afford them, then what does that mean about your inclusion in the community?