So, I was the attendance monitor for 3 years at the high school where I work. I got to meet some really neat kids in the process of doing my job. I got to meet some super awful kids there too, but today, I'm interested in introducing to you some kids that you might not think twice about otherwise.
"I got a job Ms. Lexa!" That's what Sofie told me. Turns out that Sofie, who wants to change the world with her music, works for a snowball stand on Harford Road in Parkville. She was excited, because she's never had a job before, and she is being paid per snowball made at this stand. She doesn't know how long she'll be working there, because the owner has laid off a lot of teens, but kept her on because he had a 'soft spot for me', according to Sofie.
Turns out, he knows some of her friends, and he knows she has overcome a lot, and has a lot to offer, and is willing to work hard, a trait not seen in all teens out there! She is going to be taking piano lessons in the fall, and needs to save money to pay for them. Her chorus teacher says her voice is fantastic, and she should do what she can to learn how to make it the best it can be. She's so excited, it's palpable.
"I'm goin' to Ocean City with the WHOLE family, Ms. Lexa." This came from AnnaMaria. Now, her whole family consists of AnnaMaria, her parents, 6 siblings, 9 neices and nephews, and 4 sibling spouses.
"And guess what? I can bring my boyfriend too. But he has to stay in Teresa's place, and I'm gonna be staying in Dad's place." AnnaMaria works with the elderly, and has done so for almost two years. She works between 3 and 5 days a week during the school year, and is able to maintain good grades in school. She helps the guests with activities in the Activity Room, and depending on who reports to work, sometimes she works in the dining room or kitchen, either preparing desserts or helping the folks eat dinner by cutting their food or moving the glass a little closer to the plate than the edge of the table.
Things like that. She makes it a little easier for many of the older members of our community to get things done. And she does it in a way that gives them the idea that it is her pleasure to be the with them, not just her job. Sometimes she'll get embarassed, like when the Jell-O slips off the spoon that she's just helped with. Then she flushes and giggles, and it falls to the guest that she is helping to make her feel more comfortable. The guests like her.
I like both of them. I invited Sofie and Annamaria to come spend the afternoon with me along with 5 other girls that I had worked with during the school year, and they were the only two to come. The ones who didn't make it were sad, one had to miss out because she got to see her mom for the first time in two months, two had been out at an all-day concert the day and night before and had overslept, and the others forgot. We missed them, but we had fun, which totally surprised me!
I was totally nervous about having these girls come over to spend the afternoon with me. Being a teen in school and having an adult ally doesn't always translate into enjoying a vacation afternoon with that same adult. So, I made and bought snacks. I invited a friend of mine to come, if for nothing else, to show that there were other adults who would appreciate the girls for who they were. My friend brought iced tea, her 10-year old, and a calming presence. I brought cool nail polishes, remover, and embroidery thread, beads, and other crafty things. The girls forgot their towels!
We sat and talked, tried to get the scoop from the other girls about why they didn't come, and when we'd exhausted all the girls' cell phone contacts, we set aside the phones, decided we were hot and sweaty, and wanted to jump in the pool.
"Don't look at me, Ms. Lexa - I'm really sweaty. Don't look until I get in the water."
"Ms. Lexa, I'll get in, I swear. I just need to go slow."
"Hey! Don't splash me!"
All of a sudden, it was kids in the pool. Swimming, going under, splashing a bit, and having fun. No more sweat, no more awkwardness. Both adults, the child, and the teens were in the water, then out, then in, and finaly hungry. Pizza was ordered, all were grateful, and I got to do a manicure for one of them with lumpy nail polish. Score a point for the adults who knew how to thin nail polish with polish remover!
Then we made friendship bracelets with embroidery thread and beads. I was all worried about showing them how to do something so . . . old-fashioned. They LOVED it. They figured out, on their own like kids do, that they could loop the threads over their toe, and pull the threads taut without having to pin the loop to their bathing suit.
It worked. All of it.
"Hey Ms. Lexa? Are we doing this again?"
"Yeah, and can I please have some thread and beads to take home so I can make one for my cousin"