I left my school in Newark back in 2012, but I never really "left". I stayed in touch with my old teacher friends, and went to visit the school regularly. Last summer the ruling in the George Zimmerman case was handed down regarding his shooting of Trayvon Martin. As we all know, Zimmerman was found "not guilty" and this pissed me off.
In that time period I thought a lot about my old students. Far too many of them are not aware of who they are or who they can be. I saw too many of them in Trayvon Martin, and the thought of these bright young men going down the wrong road or being on the wrong end of a gun made me sick. I decided to do something. Last Friday I returned to my old school in the capacity of a mentor. I will be going every Friday to just sit with some of the boys and talk to them. My goal is to make them aware of their potential, and keep them on the right track.
Last week I saw two old students, and they made me so proud. The last time I went to visit, these two were not doing so well (one was under house arrest and wearing an ankle bracelet). But after sitting and eating lunch with them, I soon discovered they were back on track. At the end of lunch they even expressed concern about another classmate, and asked me to speak to him. This boy is in a bad way, but the fact that two others wanted me to help him says something.
I sat down with the other boy, and I could see the frustration in his eyes. He looked tired and almost worn down. This is a fourteen year-old child. To my shock, he remembered my name - even though I had not seen him in two years. I asked how he was doing and he shrugged. Conversation did not come easy. Finally at the end, I got a glimmer of hope, when I asked "Do you want to sit and talk next Friday?" he looked right at me and nodded yes. Clearly he needs someone.
If I can help those three boys, that would be great. That's my goal: Three. If I can get more...? It would be unreal, but I have to start slow. Just saying a few kind words, and letting these young, black men know someone cares could change their lives.