The Community Bug

Even though I’m in a new community now, I got my start in community teaching in the East Bay. As far as I knew, I’d never been that interested in a community.  My parents always viewed the community as a “scary outside place” and, in as much as the community contributed to who I am as a person, it was still a place to be avoided. Something to be afraid of.  The East Bay changed all that. Everywhere I went, I heard more and more often the catchphrase “community.” And I myself became part of a community. When I opened my eyes, there were communities everywhere! I had my Mills College community, my writing community, my long-time friends community. I even had a glimpse of what a physical community based on place would look like. And I guess, in many ways, I caught the bug. Now that I’m back in the place where all my roots are, I decided immediately to start giving back to the community that in part shaped me. That’s why I decided to begin by volunteering for a group called Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS). The group sends mentors into the community to personally advocate for individual students who are at risk of dropping out of school. Many of these students have parents who are addicted to meth-amphetamines (a huge problem in my small-town area) and are being raised by their parents. Many are below the poverty level. Others have parents and grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who got married or got pregnant while barely out of high school and they simply don’t know anything else. For whatever reason, individual advocacy gives these students something they’ve never had: someone to care about them.  Many of them have never even had dreams or aspirations. They have no idea what they want to be. What they can be. So, today, I visited with one of the third grade teachers at Hanceville School to find out which student I would be helping. I found out his name and some of his school difficulties,  but I won’t officially meet him until next week. I told the teacher I wouldn’t be focusing on schoolwork first. I wanted to meet him, find out what his personal situation was and why, according to his teachers, he didn’t care about anything. Ms. Reid said that his parents didn’t come to parent/teacher day and that they hadn’t been coming to open house events. She knew nothing of his home life or why he couldn’t seem to be inspired to do his schoolwork. So I decided that the first thing I needed to do was find out about him and about what his home life is like. To encourage him to speak to me, I’m going to take some arts and crafts supplies to my meeting with him, and together we are going to put together a self-portrait collage about ourselves. I used this activity successfully while working with CTP, so I am going to use it again. While we are working, I’m going to ask him some questions about himself and see if I can get some useful information on how to help. If all goes well at our first meeting, we may focus on his schoolwork later. With a lot of attention and some luck, hopefully I’ll be able to make a change in his life for the better.

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~ by ImaginaryCanary on October 19, 2011.

One Response to “The Community Bug”

  1. “Abu Ghraib prison was still fresh in the minds of the American people and contributed mightily to the contentious political climate that rocked G. W. Bush’s presidency. ”
    beautifully written.

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