Sunday, July 06, 2014

Essay: Mike C

Yes, I know that this blog is supposed to be about my Art Adventures. But my Art is part of my life and my life affects my art. Today, I want to share a part of my life with you...
Mike C
I learned of a contest where a substantial amount of cash would be awarded to the winners with the best story of how it would be spent to celebrate financial independence. It got me thinking,... If I was awarded that amount of cash, I would do something smart with it. It wouldn’t be flashy or glamorous; it would just be smart. I would deposit the funds into an emergency account.  Here’s why…
I currently work for a school that helps adjudicated youths aged 14-18 cope with the challenges of life while they work on getting their high school diploma. These are teenagers who often come from family homes which are far less than ideal. There might be no dad living in the home or no mom. There is often little food in the house; poverty is often a big factor in their lives.
Most of the students in our school have known someone first-hand who has been shot, killed, or overdosed on drugs. Many are exposed to substance abuse by those close to them. Amongst all this, they strive to make their way in the world. One of the students at my school, Mike C, I got to know only briefly. He was one of a handful of students who come in extra early every day to put in time working in the cafeteria. These student workers visit my office every Friday to get their pay.
Mike stopped in for his pay only once, maybe twice. His shy but wide grin brightened the room. One morning when I entered the old brick building, I could feel that something was up. There was a dark stillness in the air. I soon found out that one of the students had been shot and killed the night before. Later that day, I was told it was Mike C.
The skills of teachers and social workers were tested that day. They did their best to deal with the sadness of the news of their student, while they worked on helping Mike's friends cope with their grief and feelings of loss.
The initial news story just said that a young man was found dead lying on the driveway of his home. I never learned any details as to why it happened, but no matter. Knowing why wouldn’t bring Mike back.
It was a sad day for me. It didn't matter that I hadn't gotten the chance to get to know Mike well.  I still felt deep sadness at his passing. It is a sad state of affairs when a person can't even finish high school before being gunned down by someone with a gripe and a gun. It seems to be happening at an alarming and increasing rate in this area. I like to think that my job is a spoke in the wheel of positive change that can happen when people show love, care and respect.
I was overjoyed when I was hired by De la Salle in Towne High School, two and a half years ago. I was simply looking for a job so that I could help contribute to my family's income and was thrilled that I had succeeded. Little did I know that before long, I would become part of a caring, supportive community of people who love helping others: teachers, social workers, the dean, the program director, the principal, the chefs in the cafeteria, and even me, a lowly administrative assistant. We all formed a community of close-knit folks who cared for these boys greatly.
Unfortunately, it has been decided by the people who are in control of our funding, that our doors will close forever. I will see no more smiles on the faces of the students when they receive rewards for their labor. I will hear no more youthful voices sounding in our halls. There will be no more classes, no more community meetings, and no more gainful and meaningful employment for the staff.
I wish that I would have the power and the means to somehow change the situation and bring it all back. But I do not, and must accept the sad fact that De La Salle in Towne High School is no more. Therefore I must turn my attention back to my family where I DO have some control.  While I look for another administrative assistant job, I will use that money to pay my family bills in order to keep us all fed, housed, and warm in winter.  As mentioned, it would not be flashy or glamorous, but smart. An emergency fund will be the seed which will hopefully grow into financial security for me and my family, so that we may in turn, give back to the community.

-Jeanne Guerin-Daley

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