Today I awaken with determination to prepare my classroom for the new school year. For some unknown reason, anticipation stirs my heart. Perhaps God has renewed my belief that I can make a difference in the lives of youth. Maybe I’ve passed through my season of disillusionment with the educational system and come out the other end with realistic optimism. I’m certain some excitement comes from a former student’s request to help him prepare for his college English entrance test. During his 8th grade year, Elpidio burned a hole through my heart that only he has the privilege of filling.
He entered my READ 180 literacy class with multiple challenges. He was an English language learner, resource student, and devoted son to his single mother. All year-long, someone was messing with my computers and we played a game of cat and mouse as I tried to catch the culprit. At the end of the year, Elpidio finally confessed with tear-filled eyes. Somehow this experience bonded us in a special way—enough so that he returns to visit me every year.
I’ve watched him struggle to achieve and to overcome his challenges. I saw determination burn in his eyes as we worked on constructing an essay for his freshman English class. Today we met in a Starbucks to go over his practice test for a college dental assistant program. I saw that same fire in his eyes, the tenacity to accomplish his dreams. He told me about his plans to eventually become a professional racer and mechanic.
His dedication to stay the course has fueled my belief in human resilience. Although he doesn’t know this, he gives far more to me than I give to him—hope that my students will value themselves enough to pursue their destinies.
One of this summer’s highlights was helping my son, Josiah, move his possessions to Palo Alto. Together we walked Stanford’s campus and toured the Graduate School of Business facilities. I saw the same determination in Josiah’s eyes, as I do in Elpidio’s, as he showed me where he would attend his classes. I remembered how much he overcame in order to realize his dream of graduating from UCLA and attending Stanford.
“Mom, this art display represents change. See how the color swatches turn and create waves?”
I stood before a massive visual display and fought back the tears. Yes, change does make waves, I thought. And we never know whom those waves will influence.
Often you despair of the effort required for change to occur, but if you’re persistent, you eventually reach your destination. Yes, this week I will prepare my classroom for my new students…and as I do, I will remember Elpidio and Josiah…and the power of change.