Monday, October 4, 2010

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Stepping of campus one encounters a drastic change in environment from the sheltered bubble Loyola provides. I myself come from a blue collared middle class working family planted right on the outskirts of Philadelphia, so city living does not come as anything new to me. Back in high school I participated in a number of different service projects to help inner city schools, namely our little brother school La Salle Academy, so I felt I had my feet wet, with a little experience under my belt. The Guilford Elementary Middle School provided me with yet another opportunity to benefit the lives those less fortunate than myself.

Dressing in kakis and a collared shirt I hoped to appeal for the scholarly look for my first tutoring session. As I walked through the parking lot past a number of parents waiting to pick their children up, I felt myself attracting a number of looks. First of all to point out the obvious I was one of the few white people at the school and unintentionally overdressed. Upon entering the main office, the woman working the front desk asked me, “Honey what are you all dressed up for, do you have a date later?” There was no intention of animosity, yet I still felt a little out of place to say the least. Laughing it off I replied, “No unfortunately, I’m here from Loyola to work with Mr. Smith.” She happily pointed me on my way, and I was off to work with the National Academic League team. I was overwhelmed with anticipation to get started. When I met Mr. Smith he was overjoyed to have me and asked me to wait have a seat in a full classroom of bustling students itching to be released. Mr. Smith was raising his voice booming, “five more minutes if you’re quiet,” over the comments being shot back and forth across the room between students. I quickly came to the realization that I was sitting in detention. One girl got up without warning shouting, “I’m out of here,” making her way to the door. Unluckily for her the Vice principle was waiting outside and sternly responded, “If you take one more step I’m calling the police and having you arrested.” Speechless I remembered my grade school days, when I heard the words principles office I shook, because i knew if my parents found out it would be the end of me. However some of these children were not as lucky as I was to have a structured upbringing. Again it dawned on me how blessed I was.

Finally the students were sent home and Mr. Smith and I headed over to an adjacent classroom to begin further studies with the children. I was assigned two sixth graders to work with on social studies. They were named Alaiya and Deshawn and both displayed vigor and determination toward their academics. But there were still kids among the bunch who felt the need to act out as a means of gaining attention. During our study session, I could not stop thinking how i wished to somehow remove these two from the distracting environment and give them all the opportunities I was presented growing up. Even from our little time spent together I could tell, if given the chance they would make something great of themselves. It pains me to know all the kids out there who have things spoon fed to them and waste the tools they are given.

Alaiya, Deshawn, and I ignored the distractions, and worked on memorizing states and their capitals I showed them little tricks that I learned when studying the same material and they embraced the challenge having all 50 down pat by the time our study session had ended. They had shown such promise, and honestly I envied their sponge like memories.

The experience related to our course study of Zora Neale Hurston’s essay, “The Gilded Six-Bits.” I felt like the unruly environment provided empty temptation like that of Otis Slemmins. There are so many negative outlets for a kid to get caught up in with little guidance in an underprivileged neighborhood. However with proper education one will be able to discern that all that glitters is not gold, keeping them on the right path to success. All they need is a little encouragement and guidance in the right directionAlaiya and Deshawn are smart kids they will know what to do from there.

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