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Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty
     

Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty

4.7 7
by Beth Zasloff, Joshua Steckel
 

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Since Joshua Steckel began work at a Brooklyn public high school as its first-ever college guidance counselor, every one of the hundreds of graduates he has counseled has been accepted to college, many to top-flight schools with all expenses paid. But getting in is only one small part of the drama of his students’ stories. In a riveting work of narrative

Overview

Since Joshua Steckel began work at a Brooklyn public high school as its first-ever college guidance counselor, every one of the hundreds of graduates he has counseled has been accepted to college, many to top-flight schools with all expenses paid. But getting in is only one small part of the drama of his students’ stories. In a riveting work of narrative nonfiction—winner of a Studs and Ida Terkel award—Hold Fast to Dreams follows the lives of ten of Josh’s students as they navigate the vast and obstacle-ridden landscape of college in America, where students for whom the stakes of education are highest find unequal access and inadequate support.

Among the ten unforgettable students we meet are: Mike, who writes his personal essays from a homeless shelter and is torn between his longing to get away to an idyllic college campus and his fear of leaving his mother and brothers in desperate circumstances; Santiago, a talented, motivated, and undocumented student, battles bureaucracy and low expectations as he seeks a life outside the low-wage world of hard manual labor to which his immigration status threatens to consign him; and Ashley, who pursues her ambition to become a doctor with almost superhuman drive but then forges a path that challenges received wisdom about the value of an elite, liberal arts education.

At a time when the idea of "college for all" is alternately embraced and challenged, this important book uncovers, in heartrending detail, the many ways the American education system fails in its promise as a ladder to opportunity. But it also provides hope in its portrayal of the extraordinary intelligence, resilience, and everyday heroics of the young people whose futures are too often lamented or ignored and whose voices, insights, and vision our colleges—and our country—desperately need. Hold Fast to Dreams will grab you on the first page and will stay with you for a long time. It should be required reading for anyone who cares about the right to education in America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/23/2013
Steckel was a college counselor at an Upper East Side private school, but left that plum job to make a difference by helping kids at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum get access to college. Writing with Zasloff (his wife and coauthor of Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance), Steckel looks at the lives of 10 students he's helped get to college since he joined the staff of the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies in 2009. Some students have been harassed by both cops and gang members, have spent their lives in and out of homeless shelters, and have gone to bed hungry on more than one occasion. Coupled with administrative indifference and intimidating applications, it's not surprising to learn why some students opted for the path of least resistance. Still, there are bright spots: some students are inspired to change, while others find themselves thriving beyond their imagination in their new academic environment. The book's main problem is that the profiles come across as a retelling of the Great White Hope striding into the ghetto to save minorities. Less cynical readers will find this to be a probing, inspiring, and well-rounded account. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Hold Fast to Dreams:
"We’ve written a lot…about efforts to increase the number of high-achieving low-income students at elite college. The true granularity of that work comes alive in Hold Fast to Dreams."
—Motoko Rich, The New York Times

"In the event the first lady is not in the room to offer guidance to the staffers charged with putting the White House [higher education] directives into action, somebody should slip them a copy of Beth Zasloff and Joshua Steckel’s new book, Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty."
The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Invaluable both to educators who deal with children from similar backgrounds and to non-educators, who often don’t appreciate the overwhelming odds stacked against poor children."
The Washington Monthly

"Beautifully written. . . . This book reaffirms the essential role teachers can play in the lives of their students, and raises important questions about the failed promises of higher education as the key to class mobility."
Rethinking Schools

"As the population of America’s future college students becomes more diverse, stories such as Hold Fast to Dreams become ever so more important."
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

"Hold Fast to Dreams is about the difficulty poorer students have in grasping the American dream. It is essential reading for those who care about the lives of all children."
—Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former op-ed columnist for the New York Times

"I love it. It was better than a good novel. I couldn’t get Santiago’s dilemma out of my mind. . . . It’s magnificent—thank you!"
—Deborah Meier, author of Will Standards Save Public Education? and founder of the Small Schools movement

"Hold Fast to Dreams is not another manifesto extolling the benefits of college. In this important new book, Joshua Steckel and Beth Zasloff provide a heartfelt analysis of the factors that make it difficult for so many urban youth to access the opportunities that college provides. Drawing on years of direct experience counseling young people for whom college is little more than a faint dream, the authors show us what it takes to bridge the opportunity divide and use education to transform lives and expand opportunity. . . . This book is a must-read."
—Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University and author of City Schools and the American Dream

"You won’t soon forget these powerfully rendered stories of young people battling big odds to go to college, for Hold Fast to Dreams is, all in one, a great read, an educational manifesto, and a testament to the vibrant ability of kids who just need a chance to realize their dreams. This book should be on every policy maker’s desk."
—Mike Rose, author of Why School? and Lives on the Boundary

"The important new book Joshua Steckel has written with Beth Zasloff, Hold Fast to Dreams, follows ten students at his former school and illuminates the dogged commitment and insider knowledge required to ensure that all students, regardless of background or circumstance, have access to the educational and economic opportunities that are often closed to many of our nation’s young people."
—Richard Stopol, president of NYC Outward Bound Schools

"This is more than a heart-wrenching look at the particular struggles of 10 inner-city students. It is a profound examination of the obstacles faced by low-income students to get into and through college and the kinds of reforms needed to make higher education and the upward mobility it promises more accessible."
Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-19
Inspiring account of what it takes to overcome class and ethnic barriers to gain acceptance to college. In 2006, Steckel was recruited to a new Brooklyn high school (the Secondary School for Research) from the college admissions program of a private Upper East Side school. He and his wife, Zasloff (co-author: Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance, 2008), chronicle the pitfalls he faced as he helped the students navigate the college-admissions process and worked with his existing network of admissions officers and support programs to qualify candidates in innovative and unorthodox ways. The success stories built foundations for others in applying and dealing with the stereotyping, racism and unconscious bias the students encountered as they advanced toward their goals of college admission. Steckel helped the students develop the resources to present their personal stories successfully. They also had to keep their eyes on the prize as they endured brutal misfortunes—e.g., the fire that destroyed Mike's home and put him in a shelter or the gang beating that nearly killed Dwight. Steckel was with them the entire way, celebrating successes and helping them overcome heartbreaking setbacks and bureaucratic inflexibility. He helped the students find programs in which potential college candidates from disadvantaged communities could pre-qualify through competitive recruitment—e.g., Questbridge and Posse, which work with Ivy League schools. The author also worked with them to meet deadlines, be on time for interviews and raise funds through scholarships. Of the 42 members of Steckel's first graduating class, 41 entered college, and they qualified for $1.8 million in scholarships. The next year's class was 75 strong and ready for another new beginning. A powerful story of courage and hope that should inspire others to follow trailblazers like Steckel and his students.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595589286
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
03/25/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
685,035
File size:
418 KB

Meet the Author

Beth Zasloff has taught writing at New York University, at Johns Hopkins University, and as a teaching artist in the New York City public schools. She is the co-author, with Edgar M. Bronfman, of Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance and currently directs the Midtown Workmen’s Circle School, a progressive Jewish community. She has a BA in English from Yale University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Joshua Steckel is College Counselor at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, a member of the New York City Outward Bound Schools network. He has been working as a teacher and a counselor in New York City public and private schools since 2000. He has an MSEd in school counseling from Hunter College, a BA in English from Duke University, and an MA in English from Johns Hopkins University. Beth Zasloff and Joshua Steckel are married and live with their three children in Brooklyn.

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Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zasloff and Steckel allow the students' compelling stories to demonstrate just how difficult it is to climb over, around and through the many obstacles poor students of color face in gaining access and making it through college. The promise of equality is at stake in the struggle to remove these obstacles and this book should be required reading for all those who believe in that promise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I think part of the reason why I excelled is because I wanted to make you proud. I said, man, I'm going to show Mr. Steckel that I can do this, because I was being such a damn knucklehead in high school." Dwight"I want to help children overcome their fears. I want to give children something I never had. Safety.... I think to myself that if I was able to get through all of those struggles and still survive, I can accomplish going to college and making something of myself."- Kennetta A heartfelt and inspiring book that opens your eyes to the struggles of those who do not see college as an option, the barriers that they faced, and the passion of those who believe in you and help you to succeed. I truly enjoyed this book. I related to many parts of their stories, and am humbled by their success. I encourage every one to read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the story of first in the family going to college and the support and motivation they received from their  guidance counselor - the story of inner city students and the challenges to applying, being accepted, and staying in and completing their college education along with their everyday challenges of just living often in  conditions of poverty. It is a story of a public high school college guidance counselor who continued to support  these students throughout their college experience. This is a book that must be read.