A Little Service Can Go A Long Way
As of last Monday I began participating in the service event called Acts 4 Youth. “In Acts 4 Youth you volunteer at the local Elementary/Middle School and help tutor and work with kids, only boys all African American, from fourth to eighth grade. I was assigned sixth and seventh graders. Although I have only been twice, my eyes have already opened to the community around us” (Me). I immediately knew that I wasn’t just there to tutor these kids, but to help them grow into amazing human beings, more amazing than they already are.
It wasn’t hard to get a feel for many of the boys’ personalities because they are extremely outgoing and social, even with people they have only known for ten minutes. After working with them for just one day I could already get a feel for who they were. When they are together as a group they are rough and tumble with one another, they joke and push each other around, as if they are a family. They know each other well enough to turn to the kid next to them and, rather sharply, say to them, “Dude you’re lyin!!!” or “He’s like part of my family I’ve known him forever.” These boys put on a tough act in front of each other, as if nothing they say or do will bother them. However, when you get them alone, even for just a few moments, a different side of them often surfaces: their intellectuality comes out, their insecurities surface, and the story of their lives can be seen in their eyes.
The man in charge of Acts 4 Youth informed us that we are there to help them succeed in school and “prepare for man hood. Their greatest goal is to make sure that these children stay in and work their way through school. Now it’s weird thinking, how can me as a woman help these boys prepare for man hood? But when you think about it, working with women teaches them respect. It shows them their verbal and physical boundaries, which might be something some of them without a formal parental figure don’t know” (Me). It is hard heartening to know that some of these children don’t have the proper parental figures in their lives that are constantly pushing and encouraging them to succeed. Many of these boys have to do that on their own. This shows me the difference between living the city life and the suburban life. I have no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of children in suburban areas that have no parental units that care enough to push them forward, but this pattern seems to be more prevalent in the city. This shows me that the city life for kids their age can often times put a dent into the education of these children; whether it be too many distractions, or the thought that school is worthless, a good amount of these boys struggle to make the grade.
Acts 4 Youth has definitely opened my eyes to the community around me. Before coming to Baltimore I really didn’t know that there were so many struggling families, predominately African Americans, which struggled not just economically, but also educationally. It makes me sad for these children but also makes me SO much more determined to make some kind of difference or influence on their lives. I want to encourage them to keep working hard in school, to make it up to high school. Just knowing that such a large percentage of students in this city don’t even make it out of middle school before dropping completely, breaks my heart. These kids are so talented and I honestly don’t think anybody tells them enough just how special they really are.
I think when coming in there these boys definitely had some assumptions about me. Even if they didn’t say them out loud, when they first met me I could see it on their faces. When I walked in the room with the other volunteers, some of the boys laughed, others smiled, and some whispered to each other. What they didn’t know was that me, and most of the other volunteers, could joke right back around with them and push their limits educationally while they pushed ours authoritatively. One of the most special moments between me and some of the boys, where I found my connection with them, is when we were doing homework. The boys got off track, per usual, and something came up about dancing. The second I told them I was a hip-hop dancer some of the boys whipped around with absolutely shocked looks on their faces. They couldn’t believe that they found a girl who liked the same style of hip-hop dancing that they did. They wanted to know what I could and couldn’t do, and I promised them if they teach me stuff I would teach them stuff. At that moment one of the boys walked up to me, looked at me with the upmost confusion and says, “So let me get this straight. You are going to study the Greeks and the Romans AND you’re a hip-hop dancer?! Now that doesn’t make any sense.” From this point on I was glad to know that I had a special connection with these boys that we can hopefully share in the near future.
My experience so far can definitely relate to Kolvenbach’s article about the Jesuit education as well as the Whale Rider, and little bit to Ode to American English. I will start with Ode to American English, by saying although I didn't see a HUGE connection between the two, what I did see was how the poem talks about all the differences around the world. How strangely she is looked at when she craves odd items in different countries, or the way she says certain words. The connection would be all the differences that I see in this school. All the kids are so different in their own ways. People may look at them in an obscure light at times but it helps them grow as people. In Kolvenbach’s article he says that “changing the world for the better will not only enhance your experience on the earth, but also serve others…strengthen communities and transform yourself.” I can honestly say that although I have only been there twice, just knowing that every moment I spend there could help these kids succeed in their lives is the greatest feeling. It gives me a sense of accomplishment that is almost difficult to explain. It just, well, it just feels nice. It feels amazing. The greatest feeling was when one of the kids came running around the fence from recess to give us hugs and saying he missed us, even though we had only spent one day with him so far. There isn’t another feeling like knowing that you have made an impact on someone in such a short amount of time. This also relates to Whale Rider in a way of looking at how special these children really are. In Whale Rider Koro is blind to how special Kahu really is simply because she is a girl. I think that so many people, outside of the school, are blind to how intelligent these boys truly are. Just because they hoarse around or don’t have a good family life doesn’t mean they are unintelligent, it just means they need someone to realize how great they truly are. Just like Koro finally noticed and brought up Kahu’s spirit by showing her just that, I think that is what some of these boys need to propel them forward. They need a higher figure in their family who just says to them, “You are smart, you are special, you can do this.” Just simple words like that can mean the absolute world to them.