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Rural students often experienced difficult family situations or extreme poverty, particularly during the Depression. Ms. Tennis recalls one student who was being raised by her older sisters, both her mother and father having died. Another student came to school one day excited by the "good dinner" he had eaten the previous night. Thinking that the meal might have consisted of perhaps a baked chicken, potatoes, a vegetable, and perhaps a pie or ice cream, she was surprised to discover that the hearty, home-cooked meal in question had consisted of cheese, crackers, bologna, and beer. A third student's family was too poor to buy bread and the student was too proud to attend school with only home-baked, powder biscuits for lunch. To ease the student's acute discomfort, Ms. Tennis made it a point to include powder biscuits in her own lunchtime meal, thus making it acceptable for the student to eat her own powder biscuits.

young children readingDespite the sometimes difficult circumstances faced by students, many realized that their one- room school was a ladder of opportunity to what they saw as a better life. The opportunities afforded students could be measured both in terms of future job prospects and their future lifestyle. In 1931 Hazel Jorgensen Smith captured the essence of both these opportunities in an address she delivered, entitled, "Why I Want an Education."

One who is educated can appreciate and have a better understanding of art, music, nature, poetry and the finer things of life. You are better able to meet difficult situations. You can appear before a crowd and associate with the better class of people. You are happier in yourself and are more serviceable to others.

The young man or woman who is well-prepared to do a certain ind of work will find more demand for his work than the one poorly prepared. .... The one who is well prepared may command a larger income than one who is poorly prepared. Boys and girls of the grammar grade age often become uninterested in school because they think it is a waste of time. They are beginning to feel grown an they want to earn money. Facts prove that every day spent in school means more money when they finally go into the business and professional world. In the U.S. the average pupil who had finished the eighth grade earns $500 a year. The average high school graduate earns $1000 a year and the average college graduate earns $2000 a year.

For these reasons I am desirous of an education...

Students who attended one-room schools often developed both a sense of family as well as a keen realization of the opportunities made possible to them through education.

CMU is an AA/EO institution, providing equal opportunity to all persons, including minorities, females, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
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