8 student confessions that make me think differently about money — and merit.

In March 2015, a group of Columbia University students created a Facebook page named Columbia University Class Confessions.

The group behind the Facebook page is known as First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, otherwise known as FLIP.


Their goal? To provide lower-income students at Columbia a space to voice their realities.

Their realities are pretty darn harrowing.

Before Columbia, Stanford had already launched a class confessions program a few years back:


After Columbia and Stanford launched their Facebook class confession pages in early 2015, other colleges followed suit.

Brown

Williams

There's a lot we can take away from these stories. They're intense; they're saddening. But here's one thing we should definitely note.

Hard work does not equal financial security. Social mobility isn't as easy as some might think.

When the Fight for 15 protests happened across the nation in favor of raising the minimum wage, one of the most common counterarguments was: "Why don't they just go get a college degree?"

Well, look at these college students working hard — to feed themselves, to get a roof over their heads, to get the medical assistance they need for depression or other health conditions, to support their struggling families back home. They went to go get that college degree that is supposed to help people out of poverty. They even worked hard enough to apply and get accepted into incredibly prestigious colleges, colleges that one would think would be the golden ticket to success.

And still, they're struggling. "Hard work" doesn't always give lower-income folks what they need to survive and fit into a world that's not made for them.

And the sad reality is that many lower-income people will still be struggling after graduation thanks to a weak economy — and a lot of debt.

From the Institute of College Access and Success: 69% of the Class of 2013 graduated college with an average of $28,400 in student debt.

Lower-income students clearly have more difficulty navigating things that others might take for granted — simply because they never had access to the resources some have always had — and don't know how to use them.

Check out more stories being read by students in this video below:

We all deserve the right to survive without struggle. These students show that hard work doesn't cancel out the obstacles that many lower-income folks face when trying to move up the socio-economic ladder.

Maybe their stories will help stop the unfair judgement of lower-income people and help others be more aware and understanding at the same time.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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