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It’s important, you see?

By Sara Mitchell, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow at Bemidji High School

“Why you late for school, son? Get to class!” I teased him. He cracked a smile, flashed me his pass, and said something like “It’s okay – it’s excused.” Later that week, after I told him it was great to see him in school on time, he asked me “Why do you care if I’m in school or not?” And so I told him – It’s important, you see? To be here. To do the work. To see that teachers are people, too. Because no one, not even the most patient person, wants to retake classes they hate after they’ve failed them.

Because I care. Because you are capable of so much more.

And then he started to talk.

He talked about teachers he didn’t have good relationships with, classes he struggled in, the difficulties of not having his glasses – and I sat there, soaking in the privilege of this information, feeling like his head didn’t realize his heart was executing a breach in data. His walls were crumbling.

I saw an opportunity in the information he had shared. I began attending the class he, along with other students, had mentioned having issues in. The content was rugged – teacher-student relationships strained. But by the end of the term, after several weeks of tutoring, in-class support, daily check-ins, encouraging postcards home, comically stern calls when he skipped school, he displayed 25% growth in just one class, a general shift in attitude and accountability, and a sense of pride.

Now, at the start of a new term, he carries himself like a kid who knows what success feels like – a kid who knows someone cares. A kid who knows he is capable of so much more.

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