Meet Mike, new research assistant

When I graduated from New Bedford High School in 2004, the city was undergoing a transformation. I watched as the plywood boards came down from shops that had been closed since downtown New Bedford dried up in the 1980s. I saw new, exciting things happening in business district that, for as long as I could remember, had been a barren ghost town. The hollow shell that had served only as monument New Bedford’s successful past was being refitted and repurposed. Empty storefronts were populated with window displays, the chimneys of art students’ kilns began to protrude from the Star Store’s roof, and the vacant floors of textile warehouses were divided into housing. People were out on the streets, interacting and exchanging ideas, this long dormant sector of the city began again to teem with life and energy.
I witnessed the downtown renaissance because I chose to forgo college immediately after high school. Whether this was due to a need to satisfy wanderlust, my own insecurities about my ability to meet new academic standards, or just plain laziness is debatable (and was debated at length whenever I was found at home and jobless). After floundering in menial jobs for a couple of years, I returned to UMass Dartmouth, which I had attended for just under a semester following high school, to pursue an English degree. In the intervening time, fellow NBHS graduates had attended colleges outside of the area. Friends I had stayed in touch with flourished in cities like Boston and Providence, where there is a multitude of employment opportunities for young professionals. Due to this, many lifelong New Bedford residents, the people intimately familiar with the problems facing this region, choose not return after completing college. This is only one of the reasons why the SouthCoast lags behind the rest of the Commonwealth in terms adults with college degrees.
This is why I am eager to join the Urban Initiative as a research assistant this summer and work with high school interns to address the issue of college access in the SouthCoast. New Bedford and Fall River have large populations of students graduating from high school every year. It is crucial that these youths have the tools they need to overcome the barriers between them and a college degree, and that they are aware of the post-college employment opportunities the region has to offer. The cities of the SouthCoast can only tackle the issues they face if they maintain an educated, motivated population. I am looking forward to finding ways in which we can foster the next generation of urban problem solvers.

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