Oh, the mixed feelings. The proud “mama bear” feeling. The ecstatic “look at them go!” feeling. The sad “they’re leaving” feeling. All of ‘em. I’ve got all of ‘em.
For the past six years, I’ve been working with at risk youth with disabilities in the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program at Easter Seals Greater Houston. The goal is to prepare them for life after high school while also making sure they feel the support and heed the guidance that aims to keep them out of the juvenile justice system and aiming instead at college and work. As you might imagine – working with teenagers is equal parts fun and *enter face-palm emoji here*. While we work on resume building, interviewing skills, and career exploration, they are also testing, and subsequently, pushing boundaries every chance they get. I’ve learned to navigate the energetic mischievousness and get as much done as possible, while still begging a handful of class clowns to “sit down”, “fill this out please”, and “please stop throwing erasers at his head”. I can’t complain too much, though. Most of the time I’m laughing as I say it because they truly are some of the funniest kids I have ever met.
For the last three years, I have had the same group of students at KIPP Northeast College Prep. Since day one, when they were all feeling me out and seeing if they actually liked me at all, they still made me laugh. There’s the one who can do any sound effect in the book and always has videos of his plays in the past weekend’s football game to show me, the one who prefers to walk around barefoot, the one whose smile is actually legitimately contagious. They all walk up and hug me when I walk into their classroom each week – and not superficial hugs, either. I mean big, crack-your-back bear hugs. The fact is, though, it’s time for some of them to move on; my five seniors. I’ve prepped them for this since their sophomore year, but it crept up on me a lot faster than I would have liked.
Today in class, all five of them told me that they had been accepted to several colleges. This big, scary transition from high school was starting out pretty wonderfully and they were excited to share the news. Again, those mixed feelings. I am so proud of them and I’m so sad to watch them go. When I started at Easter Seals, I knew this program would probably be pretty life changing but I honest to God didn’t expect it to have such an effect on me, too.
I’m so lucky to be a part of something so amazing and to get to spend my time with such talented, kind, intelligent young people. Watching them figure out their goals, work toward them, and achieve them is really incredible. My heart is full.
I still have a few months to prepare myself in an attempt to hold in tears as they walk across the stage at graduation. But that’s nothing a big bear hug can’t fix. Congratulations to the soon to be high school graduates of the class of 2020! Watching you on your journey to college has been a blessing. Don’t forget to visit. I’ll have candy.
Love, “Miss Jacquie”.