Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stepping Up and Breaking Through

Jose is in high school! He was one out of five students selected to take high school freshman level psychology classes as part of a program with PACE. Every day during 8th period he and four other students take the bus over to the high school. Last year during 8th period he was either wandering the hallways or not in school at all. Needless to say this is a huge accomplishment for Jose. He’s loving it and totally stepping up to the plate.

I’ve been holding off from asking him about his mom. For one thing, and this is one of the challenges of my job, I can’t do intensive therapy with students. I also don’t want to open a Pandora’s Box at a time when he’s excelling so much. I don’t want to dig up the emotional turmoil he is managing to cope with right now.

Part of why he’s doing better this year, besides the fact that his mother’s health is stabilized, is that he’s still living with his aunt. Jose was fighting with his mom’s boyfriend so much last year that he started staying out all night. He was finally moved to his aunt’s house and she actually has legal custody of him now. She is 23 years old, a mother of three, works full-time and goes to school at night. I thought I was juggling a lot! She literally gives us hugs she is so happy to see Jose’s improvements. It is good to know he is in a stable home environment with a positive role model. But, I also know his aunt is overwhelmed with responsibilities and has limited time for Jose. For now at least he’s keeping himself on track, and if and when he shows signs of slipping, I know his aunt will do all she can to help us keep him focused on graduating.

The main challenge I am facing now in class is finding a way to break through to a group of girls who are feeding off each other’s apathy. They are struggling to keep up with the class academically. It’s a combination of weak skill sets and a lack of interest. They are already on probation. If they do not improve they will be asked to leave our class, and most likely that means they will be held back another year or drop out altogether. I have to break through the apathetic wall they have up. Each one of them has to have some interest, something that I can use to get them reinvested in school. I know one likes to write, so I signed her up for our newspaper group. Hopefully by my next blog post I’ll have “cracked the codes” of the others. Stay posted.

We also hooked up with Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring program. Every week five of our kids will travel to this one company’s offices to meet with their mentors. They’ll take part in workshops on everything from drugs to college preparedness. This was the missing piece of our program. We wanted our kids to do something outside of the schools, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters is perfect program for us.

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