A college degree

LC teacher ventures to Nashville to support a big change

More stories from Kiyah Moore

A STEM event
May 10, 2016

Corbett and her students received the opportunity to speak with Jimmy Matlock

A college degree, the desire of nearly every high school student—the piece of paper that could change their whole life comes at a usually expensive price. Any middle class, American family will experience the struggle of covering their child’s tuition costs, and, in the long run, paying off considerable amounts of debt.

But the struggle is much more difficult for some students in Lenoir City High School, who will have to pay international rates due to being undocumented.

March 25th, one of LCHS’ teachers made a journey to Nashville for a lobby day held by TIRRC (Tennessee immigrants’ rights and refugee’s coalition). Ms. Corbett, the veteran teacher of ESL and ELL has witnessed firsthand the struggle undocumented students endure for their dream of a college education.

“My heart just hurts for [the undocumented students] when they get to be seniors and there’s nothing for them to do. So many want to continue studying, and just like a lot of English speaking families, their families don’t have the means to pay for $12 or $13,000 dollars a year,” said Corbett.

Undocumented students meet all of the high school requirements that any other student meets. They earn all of the credits any student would earn the same way any student would earn them.

Corbett received emails from TIRRC and learned about the lobby day coming up for house bill 675 and senate bill 612, which would grant undocumented students the ability to attend college for national rates rather than the international ones that they must pay now.

So on March 25th, Corbett gathered 5 of her students,  Eric Gonzalez (9th), Maricuz Garcia (12th), Angie Aguilera (11th), Wilbur Cifuentes (11th), Juan Cuevas (10th), and headed to meet with Tennessee’s representatives.

Corbett made the decision to go because of her passion for teaching.

“ I come from a family with a lot of teachers…education is so important to me. Learning is so important to me, and my students will quote their parents, “Well, why are you here– well we came for a better life,” said Corbett.

Corbett sees the desire her students have to have good jobs in their futures.

“I see such a waste of talent,” says Corbett.

With any bold action, there usually is backlash. Corbett says that she’s received nothing but positive statements from people she’s reached out to. However, she has experienced hesitation outside of school for support due to the fact that the students are illegal.

“It wasn’t their choice to come; it was their parent’s choice. When you’re eight or twelve, you do what your parents tell you to do and that’s the way it is,” Corbett said.

Corbett has lived in Guatemala and in Mexico, and witnessed firsthand the situation there that illegals are fleeing from, and can understand why they would want to leave.  Corbett feels that the issue is more of an educational issue than a political one.

Corbett and her students met Senators McNally, Matlock, and Reagan to discuss the bill and why it’s so important to the community. She states that she let her students do most of the talking when they received their time with the senators.

“It takes a lot of guts for [my students] to do this, and I’m just really really proud of them.

As for seeing these bills take action, votes need to clear soon. Corbett and her students have been writing letters and sending emails persistently to congress, trying to gain support for the bill. As for getting a wider range of students involved, Corbett is still in the idea process as to how to gain support at our school with this matter.

“How do you make the community better? You make the individuals in it better.”