I'm not sure when I first realized my family was poor. Not impoverished, but certainly below par in a suburban Washington, D.C., neighborhood strewn with country clubs and swimming pools. My father was physically disabled and worked his way from Texas-farm-boy poverty to a full scholarship and a university professorship. Mom was the first "college girl" in her family.
For them, college was a dream fulfilled, and they wanted the same for us kids. In 1974, after putting my siblings through college, Dad was out of money and Cinderella was out of luck. I took a government job, clipped mac-and-cheese coupons and spent Saturday nights at home. I couldn't save enough for tuition and books. I felt defeated. Then suddenly, my father passed away. His survivor benefits launched my college career and I ultimately graduated with honors. My dad is gone, but his love of education lives on because of Social Security. I'm now working on a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.