Growing up, I knew what low-income meant. For some of us it meant a piece of paper.

At the beginning of each school year, the teachers sent us home with a letter for our parents. Sign this form, they said, to declare your household “low-income” and become eligible for free breakfast and lunch.

I was grateful for the help, but I know some students felt shame. Everybody knew who was declared low-income and who wasn’t. Even if we didn’t talk about it, we were a community within a community.

I started college at 21 and I was still by every…

Jimmieka Mills

Struggling Beautifully

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