#NACACreads author Joshua Steckel sought a job in New York City’s public school system nine years ago because he wanted to help low-income teens access higher education.
In Hold Fast to Dreams Steckel and co-author Beth Zasloff seek to further that work, this time by spotlighting the barriers first-generation and minority students face in the college admission process.
The awarding-winning book — the topic of next week’s #NACACreads online chat— follows 10 students as they make their way to and through college. One teen struggles with homelessness. Others face food insecurity and live surrounded by violence.
“We wrote this book because it was our sense that the experiences of many of the students that I was working with…were not really visible in the larger conversations around college admissions,” Steckel said Monday during an interview with Higher Ed Live. “On both sides of the desk — as school counselors and in student services and admissions — it’s incredibly important to have an awareness of the kinds of inequalities that are defining many students’ experiences.”
Hold Fast to Dreams, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award, was written in partnership with the students featured in the book. As much as possible, their stories are told in their own words. Steckel’s memories and insights are intertwined, offering a unique perspective on college access and success in the US.
The book also highlights the important role counselors play in helping first-generations students pursue their college dreams. In addition to assisting with applications and college visits, Steckel helps students access financial aid.
“Quality school counseling shouldn’t be a luxury,” Steckel told Higher Ed Live. “…Quality school counseling should include work to help students get to college and be set up for success when they are there.”
The interview served as a preview for next week’s official #NACACreads discussion of Hold Fast to Dreams. The hour-long Twitter chat will kick off at 9 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 10. Steckel, who continues to work as a public school counselor, will participate in the discussion.
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