There is an old African proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Although this statement has been used and quoted over and over throughout time, as we look at the state of children and youth across the nation in this present day, this statement is just as true today as it was in the past. It truly does take a village to ensure that our students succeed and have the necessary support systems in place to help them achieve their dreams and goals. A great deal of helping them on their road to success can be achieved by simply taking time to show students that we care.
As an AmeriCorps member serving with the Denver Public Schools Office of Family and Community Engagement, a large component of our service is to conduct daily attendance check-ins with students and compose meaningful service projects in our school communities. During my first few weeks at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College (MLK), where I serve, a great deal of my time was dedicated to getting to know the school community and the students on my caseload. In the process, many of those encounters resulted in very positive and meaningful conversations.
There is a sophomore student, RoShaun, who comes to complete check-ins with my co-worker, Elia, who also serves at MLK. Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to spend time with RoShaun when she comes to complete her daily check-ins. We never know exactly how much of what we say falls on deaf ears when speaking to our children and youth. However, every now and then we see the signs that our hard work and efforts are not in vain. One day, totally unexpected and completely out of the blue, RoShaun handed me an envelope. When I opened the contents of the envelope, I found a card with the following words inscribed:
Even though I have just met you, you have opened my eyes in so many ways every time I talk to you. There are things in life that you make me think about. I am very thankful that you take the time out of your busy days to talk to me and help me out with any situation that I bring your way. I really hope to continue to work with you for the remainder of the school year. I have never met a black male like you ever in my life. You make it easy for me to come to school and leave my problems at home or at least put them to the side until I have to face them again. You are so willing to help others and see them succeed. I am very happy that I had the chance to talk to you. Thank you for making me think the way you have and for opening my eyes.
This year has come with a number of struggles and obstacles that I personally have had to face. I am working hard to be the very best I can be to prove to myself that I deserve to be here, and to set a good example for my younger daughter so she will be proud to call me her father. It is students like RoShaun that keep me going in my term of service because I recognize they need me around. I want them to know that I have been in their shoes. I want them to know that I have walked the road of pain and struggle. I also want them to know that I relate to what it is like not having both parents around to help when you need them the most. But most of all I want them to know that, in spite of all these things, they can still make it!
Up until now, I was asking myself certain questions, like why am I here? Why am I doing this? Why have I chosen to serve? In reflection, I am so thankful for RoShaun, because she has helped me to find the answers to those very questions. I am here, I am doing this, I am serving to better the lives of the students I meet throughout my journey.
– Lawrence Goree, AmeriCorps member