If it can happen in a school, chances are Dr. LaKimberly Hobson has seen it. In her more than 20 years with the Benton County School District in Ashland, Mississippi, she held roles as a teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, and district superintendent. Now, as an educational consultant, she lends her invaluable insights to organizations such as Beyond Admitted.
Working primarily with low-income and minority populations in the rural South, Dr. Hobson quickly became aware of the narrow horizons many of her students seemed to set for themselves. Disenfranchised from a young age, they had simply accepted that their options for the future would be limited to jobs working in the local factory.
Again and again, Dr. Hobson saw bright, promising students shy away from potential opportunities such as meeting with college recruiters. Their attitudes were often reinforced at home by parents who had internalized the same views about their own options.
“My mission was to try to work with students that needed that extra push,” she explains.
Many kids had never had the opportunity to travel more than 30 miles away from home, which significantly limited their outlook. And in turn, because her students’ circumstances prevented them from demonstrating their intellect and abilities outside the county, stereotypes about them were free to spread unchecked.
“We have amazing children right here in the county,” Dr. Hobson emphasizes, “but people don’t deal with them because they’re rural, and don’t have any means by which to broaden themselves.”
When she learned about Beyond Admitted’s novel inter-state approach to e-learning, she jumped at the chance to get involved. In its emphasis on fostering empathy and equity, Dr. Hobson sees Beyond Admitted as “a uniquely individual cure for the educational cancer that is plaguing our world.”
She notes that the benefits of Beyond Admitted’s approach may have ripple effects when students share their experience with family members and other authority figures who may hold biases about certain groups. “Until we can talk to each other, we’re never going to get past the belief systems we carry.”
“Everyone has the right to be heard and taken seriously,” Dr. Hobson adds.
By removing the barrier to access, e-learning through Beyond Admitted links students to a unique outlet for self-expression in a supportive environment. Showing students in marginalized populations that their views and experiences are just as important as those of their more privileged peers, the program levels the playing field to powerful effect.
Throughout her long and varied career in education, Dr. Hobson has seen firsthand the uphill battle faced by students of lower socioeconomic status. The performance gap for marginalized populations is apparent even in the earliest grades of primary school; without intervention, it leads to gaps in opportunity and income later in life. In its innovative online classrooms, Beyond Admitted works to address this inequity by promoting mutual respect across class, ethnicity, and geography, a mission Dr. Hobson believes can be truly transformational in low-income communities.