Monday, September 7, 2020

WON'T LOSE THIS DREAM :: Andrew Gumbel

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Princeton Nelson was at a crossroads. He was born in prison, his parents convicted of dealing drugs. He attended an institution for kids with emotional and behavioral problems. He ran with gangs and carried a gun. Through it all, Princeton was a good student with natural intelligence. If it hadn't been for Georgia State, however, Princeton might have had a different end than graduating with a computer science degree and a 3.3 GPA.

When Princeton applied in 2016, Georgia State was gaining a "national reputation for its pioneering work" helping students like him--poor, Black and struggling to make it as the first in their family to attend college. "What is remarkable about Georgia State students is that despite the precariousness of many of their lives, they still graduate in extraordinary numbers." The six-year graduation rate is close to 60%, well above the national average.

Won't Lose This Dream is the remarkable story of how Georgia State revamped its system to help students on the edge flourish and succeed. "This is not just about the lives of a few unusually tenacious and talented individuals. We are talking about a fundamental transformation, a real-time experiment in social mobility that the university has learned to perform consistently, and at scale." Journalist Andrew Gumbel's well-researched account is backed up with hard statistics but remains far from tedious. Infused with background from the school's administration, particularly those who pushed for difficult change amid recession, and student success stories, it is a heartfelt and hard-won template for success.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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