Another kind of diversity: Cash and class at Uni High
By Emma Anselin, Alex Cahill, Nicole Gong, Nicole Helregel & Angela Jin
Social Advocacy students
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007, The OG, news
IN THIS YEAR'S Social Advocacy class, we investigated economic diversity at Uni High. We had some intriguing results …
This past school year, there has been a lot of talk and controversy about the level of racial diversity at Uni. But are we overlooking another kind of diversity?
AN ECONOMIC PROFILE OF UNI FAMILIES
In the eyes of the Champaign-Urbana community, Uni is often seen as a rich, professor's kids school.
But just how many Uni families can actually be classified as “upper class”? How do Uni students see themselves?
And what can be done to increase the economic diversity at Uni — or at least connect Uni students with people of different economic backgrounds?
Social Advocacy asked these questions this past semester and conducted surveys of Uni students and parents to get some answers.
Out of the 183 parents who responded to an online survey, 50 percent reported a total annual family income of more than $100,000. Compare this with the 2005 median income levels of Champaign ($56,594) and Urbana ($42,655).
When determining economic status, one must consider more than just income. Many Uni families own multiple cars, sometimes even four, and almost all live in a house rather than an apartment. Also, Uni parents exhibit a high degree of education: 78 percent of parents have obtained at least a master's if not a doctoral degree.
But what is interesting to note is that most Uni students don't consider themselves upper class. When surveyed, almost 50 percent classified themselves as middle class, and 40 percent classified themselves as upper-middle. A mere 3 percent consider themselves solidly upper class.
The survey given to Uni students also asked them how they determined economic status. Often parents do not disclose the family's financial matters, leaving it up to the students themselves to interpret their own economic status and that of their peers, based on a variety of economic indicators.
When surveyed, students reported that the indicators they use most frequently are parents' occupations, type(s) of car(s), location of residence, size of residence, and personal belongings (such as cell phones, iPods, etc.).
We also plotted the home addresses of Uni students onto a map of Champaign-Urbana, and compared it with spatial economic data. We found that many Uni families, though not all, live in the “state streets” in Urbana and suburbs in southwest Champaign.
In addition, these two areas exhibited the highest median family incomes in Champaign-Urbana, of $75,000 to $100,000 and $100,000 to $200,000, according to census tract data from 2000.
Through our research, we noticed that many Uni students came from similar economic backgrounds in terms of the neighborhoods they lived in, the schools or gifted programs they had attended, and their family income levels.
One of the student survey questions asked what factors students felt influenced the economic atmosphere at Uni. Many replied that the less economically diverse environment at Uni is due to higher income levels often accompanying greater access to academic resources.
BUILDING BRIDGES: THE KING SCHOOL PROJECT
After analyzing our data, we began to brainstorm possible projects to help connect Uni students with a different economic atmosphere. We decided to set up a way for Uni students to volunteer at
The King School project seemed to fit perfectly into our goals in Social Advocacy and our semester's theme of economic diversity. King School had expressed a need for volunteers to help out in the classroom, and we believed that Uni students could contribute to their resources.
The program is scheduled to begin in the fall. We decided to have a very simple application process just to ensure that our volunteers were responsible and could be depended upon. Out of 18 applicants, we selected 10 volunteers.
Starting this fall, each of them will meet with the volunteer coordinator at King School, and together we will set them up with a classroom and a teacher where they can volunteer during a free period. We will ask them to come to King School at least twice a week for both semesters.
We spent the last few weeks of the spring semester talking with teachers at King School, who have described many ways in which Uni students can contribute. They can serve as teacher aides, tutor children one on one, run study groups for statewide testing, design special projects for the classroom, or play with children during recess.
King School also offers special classes that kids take twice each week during the school day as a break from their regular schedule. The topic of these classes range from the wonders of chocolate to the techniques of iMovie. Uni students could draw from their own talents or hobbies to help out with these activities. King School even has the only English as a Second Language program in the Urbana School District 116, and our volunteers who speak foreign languages could participate in this as well.
Having set the groundwork for the project this spring, we believe Uni will provide good mentors and helpers for the children next year and also give the King School community a better sense of what Uni students are like.
More importantly, we feel this program will benefit the lives of Uni students. We hope it will expose Uni students to a different environment where they will be met with people and challenges that they don't usually encounter.
— U.S. Census: Socioeconomic profile of Champaign
— U.S. Census: Socioeconomic profile of Urbana