It really is every day that the Blue Bubble divides us Andover students from the rest of the world. For eight years, I lived in the Bay Area, valley of clear skies and Whole Foods, so I suppose I’m uniquely unqualified to discuss the ramifications of gentrification. The security, stability, and privilege of living not only in wealth but truly surrounded by it — that warps our worldview. Naturally, everyone looks out through a series of lenses that have developed from their contacts and experiences, but it is a unique privilege to forget that inequality exists.

So walking around Lawrence, Mass., last Tuesday, I was unnervingly struck by the fact that I had never visited the city or even imagined what it looked like. Specifically, our guide Dariana [Guerrero] spoke about her search for housing in Lawrence. She explained that over the years, developers have built luxury apartments all across the city — and of course, these gentrifiers thus force the original residents out of their homes and community.

Some of these buildings require rent to be less than ten percent of your annual income, with apartments at two thousand a month,” said Dariana. Can someone math out the income you would need?”

The group of us stood and tried to find the right number. I thought, Ten thousand dollars? No way. Silence.

Another teacher finally responded, Over a hundred thousand dollars.” No way, I thought again. My own answer had seemed too low, but this was impossibly high.

It wasn’t until after I whispered my confusion to some peers that I realized, many of us had made the same mistake. It wasn’t just 2000 × 10, it was (2000 × 12) × 10.

What an obvious thing, but of course, I had never calculated rent before. That absolutely does not excuse my ignorance, but it does explain it. It’s a strange thought: that millions of people are constantly fighting with those numbers, seeking a way to afford basic necessities under such miserable circumstances, and I had never encountered the math until then.

In our intentionally diverse community — so many students intimately understand the ever-increasing struggles of housing prices. If I had not joined the Workshop, I probably would have gone my entire Andover career without visiting Lawrence or Lowell — and certainly, many of us do.

As embarrassing as all this is to admit, I am grateful for the (deeply) educational experience. Actually, it was my first ever field trip at Andover, an odd notion when you consider the vast network of schools and histories within driving distance of our campus. Is that a problem? Maybe not, since we technically don’t live here. But even then, I can’t help but wonder what’s thus lacking in our education.

In many ways, the past four years introduced me to the world as a whole, expansive place. Just as ignorance (and embarrassment) characterizes middle school, discovery characterizes high school. So as a thirteen-year-old, I never really explored the Bay. In the end, I know neither the SF Bay nor the Merrimack Valley well. I can get around suburbia just fine, but beyond that, I’m practically a tourist. Maybe it’s not a problem to overlook the communities around us — but it certainly is a blind spot.

As we drove back towards campus, where power outages end in hours and the roads maintain the bright white lane lines, these other realities faded again into the background. Nearly disappeared by the time I returned to the library, chatting about the rice and beans I had for lunch. Maybe it’s not a problem for me, in the sense that I feel no direct threat. But outside the confines of our bubble, these societal and structural problems don’t cease to exist. I know that, of course I do, but I also know that I do not fully understand. Either way, I hope we all continue to receive this education — because really, it is about education.



Each spring term, The Workshop welcomes approximately 20 seniors to this interdisciplinary, project-based course. With an eye toward reimagining what school can be, the Workshop is the senior’s only academic commitment for the entire term. Instead of splitting their time and attention into units of distinct courses and fields of study, they work closely with peers, faculty, and community and global partners on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single theme. Within the theme Experiments in Education, students explore areas of personal interest.

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