April 2018

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NL #41: Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.

NL #41: Today, seniors at one high school where I work showed a slide show celebrating one another. The quotation that kept being projected was Friedrich Schiller's, "Keep true to the dreams of thy youth." Such pre-graduation celebrations, filled with the hope of community, accomplishment, and new beginnings, lift us all.

I witnessed many of the students whom I taught in my last year of teaching receive awards, and then I got to present World Citizen Scholarships to four Somali girls. They will each use the scholarships to attend community colleges. These girls, Amino, Fatima, Miski and Sucdi are determined and bold. As we left the assembly, one girl stopped to warn her history teacher that she would be coming to see him during fourth period to find out about her grade. She would not accept, she said, a D or a C. (I think it was understood that an F was out of the question.)

After their graduation ceremony, Amino introduced me to her mother, who does not speak English. She gave me big hug and then kept stroking my arm like one might pet a long-haired cat. I understood. She has been through a lot and has feared for her children and is saying thank you, to me and to the spirit of the world that nurtures them.

Each of these graduates came to high school speaking little or no English and is now graduating. They have learned to speak English and to navigate the public school system. They manage one language and culture at home and another at school. They have completed required coursework, including completion of core classes like A.P. Literature. They certainly know persistence and self-advocacy, which is good because they still have considerable obstacles to face:  cultural, familial, financial ....

At another school where I work, my colleague Todd told me about the moments at the awards assembly that made him cry. One student with Asberger's, selected as a senior speaker by his classmates, got up to talk and could not. He wept. Students gave him a rousing ovation and one brought him a Kleenex. He sat for a while with two teachers, then stood again to deliver his speech, this time successfully. Eleven hundred high school students, their teachers and parents, were absolutely silent as they listened to what he had to say. In another absolutely silent moment,peers listened to the story of a student who received the ELL award. She came to this high school is 2005, speaking no English and raising her son. Now fluent, she's graduating tomorrow. Her peers exploded in applause for the gutsiness of her success.

In contrast, I encountered two young men who were walking the halls during the assembly. One listened to his ipod, drowning out the world around him. The other stopped, read a stenciled sign on the wall aloud: "If you DREAM it, you can DO it.--Walt Disney" and said, in almost a whisper, to the sign, "Tell that to the millions of crack kids who have dreams."

Stories of hope are so inspiring to me because I also see the darker stories that may be more prevalent. I want every child to experience the hope that the students who have overcome so many obstacles have inspired. Students like these continue to inspire me in facing my own obstacles. At our wedding last year, guests contributed to the World Citizen scholarship, one that we plan to continue. What a gift of hope this is, to me and to them. Please let me know if you'd like to contribute (contributions are tax-deductible.)


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