EDUCATION

When Dasani left home – The New York Times

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When Dasani left home – The New York Times

“Yes, ‘my closet,'” voiced Tabitha. “‘Look how big my closet is!'”

It’s time to say goodbye soon. Tabitha stands beside her husband Jason, a fat, bearded 42-year-old man who favors wire-rimmed glasses and a flannel shirt. Their sons – ages 8 and 11 – will soon be home from school, along with a group of Hershey girls.

Tabitha has Leo, the new puppy in the family. “Look at my baby now, okay?” Chanel tells the dog.

Both mothers hugged. They have already discussed Dasani’s “four-week adjustment plan”. The channel is allowed a weekly phone call to Dasani, at a predetermined time. There is no visitation for a month – a separation designed specifically to help incoming students form new bonds with their at-home parents.

It can bring a swell of emotions: sadness, guilt, confusion, anger. Some children rebel, hoping that their crimes will send them home. But the more they can tolerate this separation, the more likely they are to fulfill the school’s goal of living a “full and productive” life.

The vague message is clear. To leave poverty, Dasani must also leave his family – at least for a while.

Dasani is waking up That first night she has never slept alone. She keeps reaching for Lee-Li. “I don’t know how to sleep with anyone,” she would later tell me. Outside, the sky is wide and dark, the snow almost silver. Hershey’s is so quiet that any noise makes a shudder—the rustle of branches, the rumble of trucks.

Everything feels different, even the wind. A few feet away, Dasani’s 13-year-old roommate is sleeping soundly. She is also a city girl. But she came from Trenton, NJ, eight years ago, long enough to learn how to sleep sober.

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It’s not just homesickness that keeps Dasani awake. She is feeling the pressure Hershey represents. “I believe I can achieve my dreams in this school,” she writes in her journal. She makes little mention of her 11 housewives, for fear that they may read the diary and turn against her. Earlier, he warmly welcomed Dasani to the dinner, bowing his head for grace. He ate quickly, as if the food had disappeared. New students are not used to second helpings or side dishes. Sometimes they guard their plates, hunched over each meal, or they try to ration it, storing the food in their napkins.

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