Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And I will never leave you alone.

As a slightly OCD program coordinator, I'm always elated when kids are responsive, mentors are consistent, and everything goes according to plan. But for better or worse, the core work really happens when things get messy.

Case in point: two months ago we began a Tuesday evening cohort with Adams Middle School. All the kids were new to mentoring - they were deferential, engaged, and had 100% attendance at several sessions. I thought it was a dream come true! It turns out, it was just a honeymoon period. Now that they're comfortable with us, the fun has started.

I've learned that we have a trio of boys who are neighbors, and need to spend every waking moment together - much like middle school girls heading to the bathroom in a pack. They are way too cool for school. They are alternately angry and wiltingly shy. Two out of the three are being hit up by gangbangers on a regular basis. They will literally turn sideways to avoid eye contact when I try to talk to them. They like to do things like run away as soon as their mentors arrive.

I love them so much.

I had the following exchange with their pack leader yesterday after I'd been talking to them for a few minutes:
B: Man, can't you just leave us alone?
Me: I will never leave you alone.
B: No, I mean like, right now!!!!!!!

You know what's so great about taking crap from tough little 13-year-olds? That they're engaging with me. That somewhere, deep down inside, I imagine they really like the adult attention. That I've seen kids like this crack open, three years later. I'm keeping the faith that they will too, if we can keep them with us.

So, I say, dish it out, little man. We're not going anywhere. And now, I get to hustle to support these mentoring relationships, which have gotten that much more complicated, but that much more real.


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