These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

migrant summer school

friday afternoon i got to experience what dawn experiences every weekday: migrant summer school.

while i'd been there when i wrote a story about the program, this was different. i went to talk to the students about careers, my career. i felt honored that the teacher, mrs. irizarry would consider me.

i went in nervous; while i am used to writing stories on deadline or interviewing a complete stranger, talking in front of a group of students is a bit scary, even if they are fourth-graders.

i must say that the experience left me feeling great. i talked to them about where i came from, my schooling, my eye sight and what i do at my job. we even did a mock interview that involved dawn pretending she'd won tickets to see los tigres del norte (the kids loved that).

the students interacted, asked questions and participated in a mock story that dawn concocted. it was full of errors and the students had to figure out where they were. each student spoke up and pointed them out. one girl, who really impressed me, arlette, even said that the second sentence is the "grabber" and should be the first one. dawn wondered if any student would pick that error out. it made me smile.

i took the kids newspapers and reporters tablets i had lying around the house. that caused them to ooh and ahh. that made me feel good, too. then they asked me to autograph them. dawn warned me that they'd do that. at first i was taken aback, then she said they'd like it, so i obliged. what a thrill they got.

afterwards i watched them play soccer, where this kid, misa, scored four goals. he was great.

what an experience. i give a lot of kudos to the teachers and assistants who teach the kids. they're doing a great job; the kids are intelligent and not afraid to talk and ask questions. i hope they remain always this inquisitive.

i had preconceived notions, i'll admit. i expected shy students, head down, mumbling words. how surprised and thrilled i was to get the opposite.

the students want to learn. you can see their minds turning as they think things out.

it makes my heart sink to think that maybe some of the kids in the program, even some in the class i went into, will, after high school (or before if they don't complete school) slip into the migrant lifestyle.

there is so much potential for them. so many programs waiting for them to get them through high school and onto higher education. i hope they, students, and parents, push to remove themselves from the migrant life.

there is nothing wrong with hard work; it bulds character. but, when there is a chance to go beyond where your parents went, people should do it. i think most parents would be proud to point out mijo or mija in a crowded auditorium in a university graduation and say, "que orgulloso estoy de el/la. que gran dia es hoy."

those are the words i'd like to hear from, juan, andres, arlette, marlynn, lucero, misa and denisse's parents 12 years from now. that would make me very happy and make friday's visit complete.


Anonymous Brooke said...

Every summer for 5 years I worked as a teacher's assistant in a migrant ed program in Hartford, MI. It was very rewarding to watch the kids grow over the years, but also heartbreaking to know that those same bright kids would not have the opportunity to go to college, if they even finished high school.

I admire Dawn for sticking with the kids :)

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