Allston Students Face Two Worlds

For Amanda N. Holm ’05, the soccer field that served as her backyard growing up was more than a playing field.

It was the location of various camp activities over the summer, home to her first business—where she would sell kool-aid to the athletes playing and practicing—and where some of her fondest memories had been formed.

That the soccer field was home to Ivy-League games and that her customers and counselors were Harvard students made no difference to her. She felt Harvard was another world she could not access—until she attended the University herself.

“I really was torn for awhile, it felt like I had to be two different people,” says Holm, who grew up in The Charlesview Apartments, a concrete cluster of low-income housing units located near Harvard Business School.

Raised in Lower Allston and attending Harvard, an institution that has long had a tense relationship with the community, Holm says there has developed a dissonance between loving her school and having a deep personal knowledge of the impact it has had on her neighborhood.


“I wasn’t aware of any tension of where I was—I loved it there,” says Holm. “It’s just coming now that maybe I should have felt differently about these things.”


Over the past four years, nine Allston students have been admitted to the Classes of 2011-2014 with eight matriculating to Harvard, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67. There are two members of the freshman class who grew up in Allston: Ada D. Lin ’14 and Samuel M. Wallis ’14, though neither they nor Holm attended high school in Allston.

Holm and Lin went to the Boston Latin School, while Wallis attended Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols, a private day school in Cambridge.

Although the neighborhood is located between Boston University and Harvard, and—according to Fitzsimmons—students in Cambridge and Boston are given geographic preference, Lower Allston has low college attendance rates.

Wallis says that one reason for the low numbers may be that high schools in Allston do not provide students with the same academic preparation as other competing high schools.

“It’s made me wonder: Was I admitted for academic caliber or am I a diversity number?” says Wallis.


Attending Harvard, Holm says she has begun to relate with those students to whom she had once sold kool-aid at the edge of the University’s soccer field.

But Holm says that growing up in the Charlesview exposed her to situations completely foreign to those of most of her current peers.


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