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By Maggie VanGrondelle, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow serving at MNIC High School

Colorful sweatpants a student was wearing
About a week back, I had a new student come into school to register at MNIC. She was quiet and reserved but had on some incredible sweatpants that were patterned with the NBA team logos. Being a basketball fan myself, I told her how much I liked her pants and asked where I could get a pair. We chatted for a few minutes about sports and the teams she cheered for and how bored she got watching baseball. She asked me where I got my jeans and how much they cost. Not recalling where or when I got my pants or even how much I paid for them, I estimated around $30 and that was the end of the conversation. Later in the school day, she was walking down the hall and looked upset. I asked her if I could help in any way and she said she just needed someone to talk to. So, we went into my office and the first thing she said was, “If I cry, please don’t laugh at me.” I responded by saying there was nothing wrong with crying and sometimes it feels really good to cry. She opened up to me about how this was the third day in a row she had worn those super cool sweatpants that I had earlier complimented her on and she needed something new to wear tomorrow so her peers wouldn’t make fun of her. My heart sank knowing that this girl wasn’t just innocently asking where I got my jeans that morning. A conversation that I hardly thought anything of was probably an extremely difficult topic for her to discuss. The next day I brought her a few t-shirts and a jacket from the free store at another one of MNIC’s sites and connected her to our social worker to get her set up with some other resources. The fact that she could open up to me after just one simple conversation showed me the power of connection that my words and interactions can provide for my students.

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