The other day I received a fund-raising letter from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m still on the school’s mailing list even though I never graduated from the place. Anyway, the letter came from a student at the school, Gabby Salazar, class of ’09. Her job was to raise money and she had a story — which was that Brown saved her from a life in a “small town” and going to a school in North Carolina. Her pitch essentially was that Brown saved her from a life in the rural South.
“I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and, for the most of middle school and high school, I confined my dreams to colleges in my home state,” wrote Gabby Salazar. She met a representative from Brown (who braved the journey to the hinterlands) and “suddenly, Brown became a possibility.” The rest is then all good — learning, friendship, success. All of that is true — and she was saved from backwaters like UNC, Duke and Appalachian State.
What isn’t true is the “small town” part. Gabby hailed from Greensboro, a metro area of 1.5 million people. (See skyline above.) Gabby went from a city with 259,000 to Providence, which has 172,000 (and a metro area the same size as Greensboro). Poor-mouthing rural is a great way to raise money, I guess. But couldn’t Brown have found a student who came from a real small town — maybe some tiny, secluded, out of the way metro area with fewer than a million people?