When a College Takes on American Poverty

Jun 5, 2018 by

Amarillo College, in Texas, is working hard to accommodate low-income students—but it can only do so much.

Marcella Bombardieri –

Russell Lowery-Hart spent a Texas winter weekend sleeping outside, even when a light rain fell and it grew so cold that he forced muddy shoes into his sleeping bag to warm his feet. By day, the 48-year-old became increasingly sunburned crisscrossing the streets of Waco, applying for fast-food jobs and searching for soup kitchens. He arrived at one charity at noon to find that lunch ended at 11:30; luckily, a homeless woman shared her cinnamon bread with him.

He was unshowered and unshaven, in the same secondhand clothing the whole weekend. By Sunday morning, the humiliations had undone him. When a family heading to church crossed the street to avoid him, he hollered out, “I’m a fucking college president, you can look at me!”

The family hustled away. But Lowery-Hart is, in fact, a college president. And he was on the streets to find a better way to lead a school where poverty intrudes into the classroom every day.

Lowery-Hart is the president of Amarillo College, a community college on the Texas Panhandle, and he had driven seven hours down to Waco to participate in a two-day, two-night simulation of homelessness run by a religious charity, in the hopes of more deeply relating to his many students who live in poverty. “Just having a food pantry like we do isn’t enough,” Lowery-Hart said in a video diary recorded by a friend that Sunday morning last February. He was flat on the grass, still burrowed inside his sleeping bag as if fending off the trials yet to come that day. Then, in a kind of a forlorn chant, he added, “It isn’t enough, we’re not doing enough, we have to do more.”

Source: When a College Takes on American Poverty – The Atlantic

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.