Life as an Adviser: Lila Battles Inequity in Education in a Rural Appalachian Community

The best day of my elementary school career was when I won a raffle and my prize was not candy, not ice cream, but getting to intern in the main office for the day. I was enamored with the hustle and bustle of phones ringing, parents walking through the door, and mail to file. I got to see first-hand the hard work that goes into supporting a school, and this love of education has stuck with me ever since. 

Growing up in Washington, DC, the inequity in our education system was right in front of my eyes. Some schools in DC couldn’t afford doors for their bathroom stalls yet my public high school just over the line in Maryland paid teachers with PhDs. Why should a child’s zip code keep them from opportunity? After graduating with a degree in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I now live in the beautiful South Toe valley of Yancey County, NC where there are more trees than people by at least 10 to 1 (my conservative estimate). This rural Appalachian setting may look different from my urban upbringing but the issue in education remains the same: our education system is to serve all students, but it does not serve all students equally. 

Working with Appalachian College Advising Corps marries my passions for education and justice. One of our missions at ACAC is to “address the equity gap by reaching more students through direct impact.” As advisors, we have the great honor of serving every student one-on-one in our schools, regardless of GPA or disciplinary history. The best part of my workday is watching a student’s body relax as they walk through my door and hear “you’re not in trouble.” It is my honor as a college advisor to be a positive point of contact in a student’s day. I am not there to lecture them on chemistry, attendance issues, or failing grades. It is my job to help a student plan their future--what I think is the best job in the whole building!

The students that I work with every day at Mountain Heritage High School are bright, fun, and engaging--many of them are first generation college students. They all deserve the world, and I am grateful to help support them in whatever and wherever they want their lives to take them. Applying to college can often be a confusing process, and I’m not convinced that this is an accident. In a system designed to keep people out, and I feel blessed to support students and families make their way in.

Thank you, CAC for the wonderful opportunity to serve a community that has been so kind to me!  

Published: Feb 14, 2020 9:33am