Elissa Nadworny

Elissa Nadworny covers higher education and college access for NPR. She's led the NPR Ed team's multiplatform storytelling – incorporating radio, print, comics, photojournalism, and video into the coverage of education. In 2017, that work won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation. As an education reporter for NPR, she's covered many education topics, including new education research, chronic absenteeism, and some fun deep-dives into the most popular high school plays and musicals and the history behind a classroom skeleton.

After the 2016 election, she traveled with Melissa Block across the U.S. for series "Our Land." They reported from communities large and small, capturing how people's identities are shaped by where they live.

Prior to coming to NPR, Nadworny worked at Bloomberg News, reporting from the White House. A recipient of the McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship, she spent four months reporting on U.S. international food aid for USA Today, traveling to Jordan to talk with Syrian refugees about food programs there. In addition to USA Today, she's written stories for Dow Jones' MarketWatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald and McClatchy DC.

A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Nadworny has a bachelor's degree in documentary film from Skidmore College and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Twice a week, mathematics professor Andrea Bruder squats in the sewage tunnels below South Hall, a mostly freshman dorm at Colorado College. She wears head-to-toe protective gear and holds a plastic ladle in one hand and a to-go coffee cup in the other. Bruder hovers above an opening in a large metal pipe and patiently waits for a student to flush.

That flush will flood the pipes with just enough water to carry human waste down to her ladle, then to her coffee cup and eventually to a lab for processing.

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The college admissions process has long been sold as a system of merit: Do well in school, write a killer essay, score well on the SAT, and you'll get in. Yet the recent nationwide scandal, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, laid bare just how much money, instead of aptitude, often drives admissions at elite colleges.

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College towns are in a dilemma. They need students for their businesses to survive, but bringing students back could mean increasing the risk of COVID-19, and that could mean shutting back down again. NPR's Elissa Nadworny spent some time near the University of Michigan.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: If you're looking for some Wolverine or Go Blue gear and you're in Ann Arbor, you're probably heading to The M Den.

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The club was supposed to meet once a week. But for many of the members of Men in Color, Wednesday afternoons turned into Monday afternoons and Thursdays too.

"After school, we were always in Mr. C's room," says Jaheim Birch-Gentles, a recent graduate of the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. He's referring to one of the club's advisors, Mischaël Cetoute. The club served as a safe space for students to talk through issues and ideas.

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After his award-winning book came out in 2016, Ibram X. Kendi heard from people everywhere, telling him it opened their eyes to a new way of looking at history.

"They were coming up to me and saying, 'It feels too late now. I wish I had read this in middle school,' " he says.

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When Lesley Del Rio goes to the library to do her college math homework, she often has a study buddy: her precocious 8-year-old son, Leo.

Del Rio is working on her associate degree; Leo is working on third grade.

And Del Rio is not alone: More than 1 in 5 college students in the U.S. are raising kids. That's more than 4 million undergraduates, and they are disproportionately women and people of color. Of those students, more than half will leave school without getting a degree.

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A new musical explores life in high school in a way that's eerily familiar. It's called Ranked, and it's set in a dystopian world where your class rank — determined by grades and test scores — governs everything from where you sit to what your future holds.

Elite colleges are making strides to diversify their student bodies, both racially and economically. In the past few years, we've seen most top schools commit to enrolling more low-income students through financial aid, recruiting efforts and programs for high school students aimed at expanding the pipeline.

But once those students arrive on campus, says Anthony Abraham Jack, they often find the experience isolating and foreign.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 17, at 8:07 a.m. ET.

Students in Los Angeles have a new routine this week: When they arrive at schools in the morning, they're greeted by teachers — in picket lines.

Teachers began a strike on Monday after their union and the district failed to negotiate a new contract. Schools are open during the strikes, staffed by administrators, volunteers and newly hired substitutes. Still, the school day is anything but typical.

Teachers in Los Angeles are set to strike tomorrow after the teachers' union and the district failed to negotiate a new contract. The strike would impact about half a million students in the nation's second-largest school district. It would be the city's first teachers' strike in nearly 30 years.

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When applying to many of the nation's top universities, if you aren't accepted in that first, extremely competitive, round of admissions, you're not likely to get in. But some institutions are trying to change that.

This fall semester, Princeton University offered admission to 13 transfer students, the first transfer admissions in nearly three decades. In reinstating the school's transfer program, they wanted to encourage applicants from low-income families, the military and from community colleges.

Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living "paycheck to paycheck."

After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.

On one camping trip, Acevedo's troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.

"Does being waitlisted count as half an acceptance??"

"Literally got waitlisted everywhere"

"Being waitlisted from your top choice is the worst feeling"

"What should one do when waitlisted at their top choice school? Asking for a friend."

"All these waitlisted got me feelin like Ladybird."

If you've ever gone down the rabbit hole that is OK Go's YouTube channel, then you know how insanely cool the band's music videos are.

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