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Grit & Hope

Grit and Hope

Grit and Hope tells the story of five inner-city Hispanic students who start their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that offers academic tutoring and lessons in self-discipline, grit, and generosity to help them become the first in their families to go college. This year the seniors must keep up their grades in Advanced Placement courses, write compelling essays for their applications, and search for scholarships to fund their dreams. One lives in a garage and struggles to get enough to eat. Two are academic standouts, but are undocumented, ineligible for state and federal financial assistance. One tries to keep his balance as his mother battles a life-threatening diagnosis; another bonds with her younger sister when their parents’ substance abuse threatens to derail their plans for college.

The book also follows Christopher Yanov, Reality Changers’ youthful, charismatic founder, who wants to grow Reality Changers into national visibility. He’s doubled the program’s size, and hired new employees, but he hasn’t anticipated that growing means he’ll have to surrender some control, and hand off responsibilities to his new staff. It’s the story of a highly successful, yet flawed organization that must change in order to grow in a year that’s as critical for the program’s future as it is for the seniors.

Told with deep affection and without sentimentality, the students stories show that although poverty and cultural deprivation seriously complicate youths’ efforts to launch into young adulthood, the support of a strong program can make a critical difference.

Published by University of California Press, 2016.

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