KAETLYN BERNAL - ST. FRANCIS NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER, WEEK 6
I knew this summer was going to be difficult, but I never expected to have my patience tested so much that tears would eventually flow out in the middle of work. Earlier this week I was left alone with my class as my co-teacher went home sick for the day. While I was trying to teach my lesson, I was forced to take away a Nintendo 2DS from one of my students as it became a distraction for both himself and the rest of his class. The next day, the student approached me and asked for his DS back. I very distinctly described where I had put it so that he could retrieve it and minutes later, he returned with his eyes swelling up with tears. His DS had been stolen out of our classroom and I was to blame for it. With already having this pressure on me, the next day I was left alone to watch my class again while my co-teacher took a lunch break. In the hour and a half that I had them, a fight broke out, people called each other nasty names, students made fun of one of the sweetest girls in the class until she ran away crying, and a student pinched a binder clip on another students neck and then blamed her for doing it to herself so that she could then blame him to get him in trouble. In that hour and a half I lost my mind having to deal with the terrible ways my students treated each other. I had only gotten half way through the day and had felt like I had been kicked in the stomach 100 times. I finally broke in the middle of dance class. My co-teacher was unknown in her location and left me to make sure the students participated in their weekly hip-hop lessons. As simple of a task as this seemed, the students proved me wrong by disrespecting both me and the instructor every minute of that hour. When a student ran out of dance class, I chased after them and after saying two words of discipline tears rolled down my cheeks as though they were never going to end. My co-teacher found me and began to calm me down. She gave me a few minutes to get myself together before coming back to class and allowed me to reflect on what was going on. I realized that the reason I cried was because of the care and love I have for my students as I have become closer to them. I cried because I see them as my sisters and brothers and want the absolute best for them—so it hurts to see them being disrespectful and not taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. I want my students to have the absolute best and for their success to be a goal and not just a dream. When I felt like I had hit a wall I realized I had actually achieved my goal for the summer. My students have allowed me to become so close that I care for them as if they were my family.
CELINE SHANOSKY - STRONG CITY BALTIMORE, WEEK 6
Mother Seton Academy’s gym was decked out in balloons, pink table cloths, and vases filled with vibrant flowers. Sponsors sat at their tables, bobbing heads to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. Twenty women sat in folding chairs in the center of the space, tapping out light applause for the opening speaker.
This was the Third Annual Women’s Empowerment Conference, the event my supervisor Ms. Lottie and I had been working towards all summer. Our first speaker was Ms. AP, the volunteer completing court-order community service at our center. Ms. AP took to the podium and softly recounted her story of entering foster care, losing her way and finally emerging to secure affordable housing for her and her children.
The speech lasted no more than a minute, but it was the product of hours of work on the behalf of my supervisor. Despite having been our community service volunteer for months, Ms. AP had showed up only a handful of times. But instead of giving up on her, Ms. Lottie coaxed out Ms. AP’s story and accepted her help graciously whenever she did come to the center. Ms. Lottie wrote Ms. AP’s speech, dropped it off at her house, rehearsed it with her, and even gave her a ride to the conference on one of the busiest mornings of our summer.
As Ms. AP said the words “I have finally secured affordable housing for me and my children” on the podium, her eyes lit up and her face broke into a smile. Her children, five and six years old, applauded in the audience. Ms. Lottie’s perseverance resulted in not only a wonderful opening speech for our conference, but an opportunity to bolster Ms. AP self-confidence by placing her on the other side of her hardship and poor choices.
I consider myself a patient person, but I’m not sure I would have had the ability to bring Ms. AP to the podium on Thursday. Ms. Lottie possesses an incredible determination and belief in others that I hope to one day emanate.