As some of you may know, I continue to work for Citizen Schools though now in the Campus Director role. This has been a relatively easy transition, though the responsibilities have grown greater and the burden to close the achievement gap looms right in front of me even more.
The evidence of my students' struggles strikes close to home every day. One day, I hear about one of my students who struggles with depression and cuts herself on a consistent basis. Another day, I hear about another who is charged with sexual harassment through his inability to navigate the social norms as a bisexual adolescent. Before I even have a chance to breathe, I'm facing a parent concerned about the well-being of her child due to the disruptive actions of another student.
Point blank, this job is hard. There are some days when it seems like the whole world is unhappy with me or the program, and I wonder why I even continue on. But then, I reach into my lanyard and pull out a folded up piece of paper that has the name "Mark" written on it, and I remember why I'm still here - for all the kids who have same potential and passion as Mark.
Mark started last year as a 6th grader and was shy, quiet, and inarticulate. He didn't make great grades and was just one of those kids that faded into the background if you didn't keep an eye on him. One of his apprenticeships last year was EMC's Electrical Engineering in which engineers worked with the students to build breadboards and an LED light display. He ended out his apprenticeship by walking up to each of the engineers and shaking their hands and genuinely offering his thanks for their time (without any prompting from the staff!).
This year, Mark returned as a 7th grade student and brought along enthusiasm, excitement, and passion. As a 6th grader, Mark was a C-D student, and this year he's an A-B student. When he received his A on his report card, he immediately showed his Team Leader with pride and enthusiasm. During homework time, he stays focused on completing his assignments and participates actively during lessons. For the second time, he signed up for the EMC apprenticeship. When asked what career he would like to have, he piped up that he was seriously considering being an engineer. One day, he asked one of the ladies if they still had the LED light display they built last year when he was a 6th grader. He said that he would buy it from them if need be because he wanted to take it home to display as part of his family's holiday decorations and to show his parents what he accomplished.
When I think about Mark and the great strides he has made through the help of our program, I know that my work is worthwhile. And on those bad days when I sometimes cry and sometimes wish I were elsewhere, I know it will be okay because of students like Mark.
Please consider being a partner to this amazing transformative program. The quantitative reports Citizen Schools puts out proves it, but the qualitative every day stories that I experience first hand really let me know that the work I do is worthwhile.
Thank you very much for your support!