Thursday, October 8, 2009

graduation day

A kid in my program graduated today. In this program, "graduation" refers to the day when a kid leaves the group home and goes out into the real world, whether it's back to his home, a foster home or an independent living situation. In the case of today's graduate, Nico, he went to a foster home in a town about 45 minutes away, where he'll live, attend high school and, hopefully, graduate and go on to college. I have to admit that most of the time, when a kid is discharged from the system, I think the chances are likely that he'll get out, do something dumb, get recommitted and end up back in the same or a similar program. It happens all the time, and although I hate my pessimistic outlook, that's just the reality here. If you looked at Nico's case history and track record, you'd peg him as the next poster child for recidivism, too.

My money's on Nico.

Now, I did not inherit the gambling gene in my family, and I've been advised that if I am ever in a betting situation, to always bet with my head, not over it. I've only been working in this program for five or six weeks. I counted the number of class periods I've had with Nico (nine). Knowing what I know about the likelihood of kids in the system getting out and continuing to steadily screw up their lives, I should know better. Especially after today's graduation ceremony, where Nico's biological mom and dad showed up in what had to be a combination of drunk and high (but hey, at least they showed up), it's so clear this kid comes from such a fucked up background. How do you shake that, at age 17, and transcend it?

I remember the first day I had Nico in class. I gave him a basic diagnostic fluency screening, having him read a hundred-or-so-word passage out loud while I timed him. I practically dropped the stopwatch on the floor as he began to read. Even though the passage was just some sterile excerpt from an assessment book, Nico's voice had feeling, expression, warmth, and flow. Not the monotone staccato I typically hear from my students the first (and second, and third) time I do a fluency screen. Nico was polite, cooperative, and willing to make eye contact. And I could pretty much tell he wasn't just selling me a ticket.

What I've come to realize is that Nico is done selling tickets (among other things). By all accounts, he is poised and ready to use his natural skills and abilities to move forward with his education and his life. At the graduation ceremony, everyone - staff, clinicians, caseworkers, teachers, and residents - spoke so warmly and supportively on Nico's behalf. Even his foster dad, who blessedly seemed a full 180 degrees from Nico's mom and dad, said positive words of encouragement. Everyone expressed sincere well wishes for Nico, and I believe that he will truly be missed by all.

I know I'm really going to miss this kid. Not just because he was willing to do what I asked of him in reading workshop. Not because he was a beacon of light in what can be such a raw and rough environment. Nico definitely had a sort of positive osmotic effect on the other residents. He brought the whole program up a couple of notches and, just by being there, made my job a lot easier. But it's funny: I've never felt more strong a desire to never want to see someone again.

No comments:

Post a Comment