I have the pleasure of having wonderful colleagues, family, and friends that love to talk about society and education. Last week I spoke with Matt, a Counselor to students that the world has decided are "difficult" or "at risk". He loves these kids so much that he was sharing about his experiences the night before his wedding (congratulations Newlywed)!
Everyday, he connects with them, they trust and confide in him, and they are not the tough "thugs" that they show to everyone else. They are humans with passions and a yearning for wholeness like all of us. They just don't see the relevance of participating in the standard curriculum. How can they think of the abstract like Mathematics or Literature when their reality overwhelms them so much.
We seek to share our own passions and interests but all too often there are so many constraints that make it difficult. Our class sizes are huge, the curriculum is set in stone, and there is never enough resources to go around. It often seems like we are just stuck and our kids suffer for it.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. While it may not always be in school, it can be found at school. I truly believe after school programs will save our youth.
Imagine a world where passion and excitement filled the room. Where the constraints are lifted and students can participate in the real world. This is what I experience everyday with after school programs.
Years ago, by the strangest of coincidences I was introduced to Eileen Kahn and her incredible robotics team MorTorq. While I was lured in by the excitement of engineering, I had no idea what I was in store for. Jocks and geeks, male and female, rich and poor were working together as a team and friends for a common purpose to build, program, and compete in the FIRST Robotics Competiton. They would stay late and on weekends and all they could ever talk about were robots.
This would have been great if that was all they had gained from the experience, but there was more. Many of those students would have never even thought of a career in Engineering but now they were attending CalTech and Ivy League schools.
I knew when I left that school I would need to start a team of my own. I can't wait to tell you more about this exciting journey, the people I have met, and the lives touched by these programs but it will have to wait until part 2.