A WARM REMINDER
By Dimple Patel, Promise Fellow, El Colegio Charter High School
“In the three years I have been at this school, no staff has ever checked in on me,” said Pamela. Her voice expressed sincere gratitude and I took pride in making her feel special. She made me realize what I, as a youth worker, am sometimes guilty of; overlooking students who do not seem in need of dire help. Oftentimes when working with at-risk youth, we tend to focus on the students who have clear academic difficulties or behavioral problems. I was both humbled and frustrated by her words. The two conflicting thoughts I had were: I am so glad that I pulled you out of class to say, “Hey, how are you?” and I wish it did not take this long for someone to invest this kind of time in you because you deserve this attention every day. I wondered if I had not joined the new book club at El Colegio where Pamela and I first connected, would I have thought twice about checking in with her one on one. Through after school programming and continuous informal check-ins, Pamela became my right hand woman and gives me company every morning as I mark each student present. Both of us are experiencing a new sense of closeness.
When thinking about students who fall through the cracks, Pamela reminded me of an important lesson. Never assume that a young person does not need love, support, and guidance. As youth workers, we do not have the luxury of committing to one student over the other. Pamela’s words helped me refocus my time and energy on every student I have looked past. She is my beautiful reminder through every “Good morning Ms. Dimple,” through every smile, and through every embrace. We continue to share this gratitude and love daily.
[From “Voices From the Field: Reflections from Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Promise Fellows. ” Spring 2014.]