The One Year Anniversary of Charlottesville, VA Hate Rally

Devaughn Fowlkes,     College and Career Success Director, reflects on the one year anniversary of events in Charlottesville.

Devaughn Fowlkes, College and Career Success Director, reflects on the one year anniversary of events in Charlottesville.

Last Friday evening our newest class of incoming college freshmen gathered one last time before starting their fall semester. They were eager to learn key information and hear advice on navigating and succeeding in college. Our students shared their hopes, goals, fears, and questions for the road ahead while providing each other with encouragement and affirmation that they are well prepared for the journey.

After the workshop, I could not avoid thinking then how in just a few hours people would be gathering in our nation’s capital to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville, Virginia hate rallies that claimed the life of a counter-protestor. At this time last year, two of our own Breakthrough New York college freshmen were arriving on the University of Virginia campus where some of the hate rallies occurred. Thankfully both students are safe and received support from faculty on campus.  

A year later, we’re now preparing to send another class of students into new environments where it is possible they may face similar bigotry and fear for their safety.

This is unacceptable.

College, in fact school as a whole, is a time of exploration, critical thinking, self-discovery, and preparation for become a contributing member of society. It is during this time when students develop new ideas and challenge previously held views and beliefs. What took place last year in Charlottesville does not reflect the ideals and values our Breakthrough family lives by. Hate rallies should have no place in our society, let alone transpire in the same environments where our young leaders are developing and growing.  

Our hope is that we, as a society, learn from our past mistakes and commit to gaining understanding from our differences while embracing our similarities.

At Breakthrough New York we value the richness of diversity and do not tolerate the hate or injustice embodied by the Charlottesville rally and others like it. We work to create a nurturing environment that cultivates our students’ talents. Together with their families’ support, we strive to create an environment of safety and care for all our students.

As we transition another class of students from middle school to high school, high school to college, and college to career, our vision of an equitable future holds true and propels us forward.

Statement on President's Proposed Education Budget

Breakthrough New York Executive Director Rhea Wong issued the following statement today about President Donald Trump's proposed education budget, which would reduce education spending by $9.2 billion, severely cutting programs that help low-income students, in both K-12 and higher education, including afterschool programs, gifted programs, subsidized student loans, Pell grants, and the federal TRIO programs:

"The President's outrageous education budget is yet another example of his administration putting the most vulnerable Americans at risk.  At a time when our country should be making education great again, this plan kneecaps success and oppresses opportunity.

By slashing funding for after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, Medicaid-funded student services, and many other crucial initiatives, the President would significantly widen the already vast opportunity gap that exists between students from low-income families and their more affluent peers. Meanwhile, cuts to gifted programs and advance coursework would squander the potential of students who have the drive and talent but not the resources to access quality education. And, scaling back support for international education and foreign language programs would further undercut American competitiveness in the global market.

The President's education budget flies in the face of reason and need.

Since Breakthrough New York was founded 18 years ago, we have faced overwhelming demand for our support from students in our city who are hungry for access to achieve the same success as their wealthier peers. Nonprofits have been filling this vacuum, and in our case, has led to 100% of our students enrolling in four-year colleges.

Yet, low-income college students who don’t have the support of nonprofits like BTNY at least have been able rely on work-study programs and public-service loan forgiveness. Tragically, the President’s education budget would decimate the former and eliminate the latter, and it would deplete funding for childcare for low-income parents who are attending college. This, along with the President’s proposal for the federal government to stop subsidizing the interest on student loans, will make college costlier by thousands of dollars, effectively putting it out of reach for many low-income students.

Finally, as if these cuts were not enough, the President's budget would funnel an astounding amount of money into school choice initiatives, such as vouchers. The data is quite clear: vouchers pull much-needed resources away from public schools, leaving the most vulnerable children in under-resourced public schools, leading to devastating outcomes.

This budget turns the promise of a college degree into a pipe dream for many Americans. It will create even greater obstacles for those who see education as a way to disrupt the cycle of generational poverty and to become productive members of an educated workforce.