Growing up in a small tight knit community in southwest Pennsylvania was the worst thing ever, so says that part of me growing up in that town. Everyone in the town knew everyone else’s business, children had half a dozen parents, and there was a steady pace to life. I often thought, “I cannot wait to get out of here.” Eventually I did leave; I left the safety and comfort of my home of 18 years and moved across the country. The culture shock hit me during my first weeks of college.
I was suddenly very aware of how small town I was, and just how different my life was as compared to those of my new peers. My entire school, K-12 could fit into my residence hall. During the get to know you part of residence hall socialization was taking place with the year book perusing, I was asked if mine was an appendix, due to the fact that the almost two inch thick books were dwarfing what was my 120 pages. Then began the stories of high school experiences; extensive travel opportunities (abroad, concerts, plays, etc.), advanced placement classes, internships, high profile speakers at graduation. People talked about their first cars, second cars, all of which were made in the last 5 years. My car was made shortly after I was born. For the first time I was feeling self conscious about who I was, where I came from, and maybe even a little judged. I did not feel as if I was an equal to my peers because I did not have the experience, or similarities that I was used to having.
While reading Yosso’s article about cultural capital it got me thinking of what my small town added to my own cultural wealth and how this wealth has played into my own successes, failures, and approach to my personal and professional life.
Yosso outlines six areas that add to one’s own capital: aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational, and resistant (77-81). For my own case I have reflected on the importance that the community and teachers had on me, particularly in building aspirational capital. Aspirational capital is the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future, even with the perceived and real barriers (Yasso, 2005). Having grown up in the community that the minority was college educated and the majority farmers, coal miners, tool and die workers, and other blue collar jobs, I never had anyone tell me that college was not an option or did not support the idea.
Social capital is having the resources and networks of people to assist in navigating societal institutions (Yasso, 2005). For those that were in my community that went off to college and returned, mostly as teachers, they assisted me in application processes, reviewing course catalogues, suggestions for class schedules, and helping make connections with other individuals on similar career paths.
Now while my own take on the article does not relate to race, as I grew up in a very homogenized community, I see the theory take shape in that I grew up in a small rural environment that may not necessarily have all the benefits of some of the financially well of communities of my college peers. However because of the additional support and areas of capital afforded to me, I was able to leave my environment to better myself, and had great support.
By understanding how these area’s that contribute to cultural capital play into an individual’s own experience, one can better address the needs of the person to find the best ways to support and supplement services in order to promote success. Or in the case of self reflection, being able to see how a small boring town can be instrumental in the development and eventual success of someone.
Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1,69-91.
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