D.C. student with dad in jail starts college scholarship for kids like her

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2010; 6:47 PM

Creating a prom dress out of duct tape can earn you a college scholarship.

So can a good duck call, proficiency at the game of marbles, a knack for vacuum coating or an interest in pursuing potato science.

among all the weird scholarships out there, nothing exists to help kids who have worked against tremendous odds to get to college despite having a parent locked up in prison.

And that is remarkably sad.

Yasmine Arrington, 17, learned this when she began looking at colleges as a junior in a D.C. public high school this past spring.

She is part of about 2 percent of America's children who have a parent behind bars, and that's a number that has risen dramatically over the past two decades, according to the Pew Charitable Trust.

And for a while, she thought the toughest part about this would be all the times she was the one without a dad at the ballet recital or at the volleyball game.

She got through all the Christmases where they didn't visit. Her dad, who has been in and out of prison on theft and burglary charges since she was a toddler, has been shunted all over the country to federal prisons. He is now in Washington state.

But once she began applying to colleges, Arrington found yet another hurdle associated with her father's status, exacerbated by her mother's death four years ago.

"Once I get into college, I have to figure out how to pay for it," she said.

Every college-bound kid has heard the spiel from a high school counselor: "There are all kinds of scholarships out there, just go find them."

And yes, besides the duck call and potato science ones, there are scholarships based on ethnicity or height or unusual ability. But for this large and largely unsupported population of children - zilch.

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