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The Power of Two


By Joe Pendal, Promise Fellow with Check & Connect at Burnsville High SchoolThe Power of 2 graphic

Burnsville High School is one of Minnesota’s most diverse. Fortunately, my fears, that my race and age would be problematic, have proven inconsequential. Even so, nothing I do will hold a candle to the life’s work of one of the school’s Campus Supervisors.

A career Jazz musician, this 60-year old native of Chicago goes by the name Batume. Swahili for father. Batume offers his presence, and the best of his heart, to any student lucky enough (or sensible enough) to listen when he speaks.

Batume quickly took me under his wing, offering advice and friendship. He also began introducing me to students he informally mentors. One young man was Tyrone. In the weeks following our first conversation, we said hello in the halls and spoke briefly a couple times. Then I attended my first meeting of Dreamchasers, the program Batume established for African American students.

As I arrived that afternoon, Batume was refereeing a heated discussion and unable to introduce me or otherwise put his imprimatur on me. With several pairs of questioning and unwelcoming eyes staring me down, I sheepishly made my way along a sidewall to a chair in back. Moments later, warm smile on his face, right hand extended to shake, Tyrone crossed the room to greet me.

I knew why; nonetheless I wanted to hear it from him, so a few days later I asked. He said simply: “I knew how you must’ve felt, and I wanted the others to know it was okay for you to be there.” Too bad more adults don’t think like that.

Batume and I, with the help of kids such as Tyrone, are developing a program loosely based on the Peacemaking Circle model as used to create/develop/heal community to bring together students reflective of the school’s diverse population.

Joe Pendal is a Promise Fellow serving the Check & Connect program at Burnsville High School in ISD 191. An author and poet, Joe is actively involved in developing public policy related to issues of Aging in Community. He currently lives in St. Paul with his beloved and their two sons. 

[From “Voices From the Field: Reflections from Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Promise Fellows.” Winter 2015.]

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