Working with high school students has been one of the great joys of my life. When I worked at the elementary level, I thought it was the best world ever...until I got too old to bend over those tiny little desks and chairs! When I moved to a middle school, I discovered it was not the minefield all had led me to believe. For the most part I found the students friendly and engaging. It was at a middle school that I first met Maria, a charming and bright Hispanic girl with a large heart and a beaming smile. We discovered that we shared the same birthday and when I took her out for ice cream to celebrate, we began an enduring mentor/mentee relationship that, over the years, has provided both joy and despair!
Maria's parents brought her here from Mexico, illegally, when she was just a toddler. Somehow her parents managed to live under the radar until they were eligible for green cards, but they didn't have enough money to provide their children with cards. When I moved to a job at the high school, I briefly lost touch with Maria until she showed up as a freshman here. We picked up where we left off--me encouraging her, she working against tough odds to succeed. She was working hard to do her best academically, even taking some AP classes which were quite a challenge for her...she never did take the AP tests. I was hoping that when she graduated she would enter our local community college and continue her education. I used every opportunity during our dinners or lunches out to encourage her along these lines. At that time, children who had been brought to the USA by their parents illegally were not eligible for higher education. Fortunately, that rule has been changed. After graduation, Maria found a job and, unfortunately, began a relationship with a less-than-desirable young man which produced two children. She struggled in the relationship, working hard to provide some semblance of normalcy for her kids. Eventually she realized that her partner was not going to be the husband and father she had anticipated and she chose, wisely, to end that relationship. She found good work here and eventually met and married a good man and together they moved to CA where he had been transferred. Maria was finally able to get a visa and to enter a local community college.
She called me today to tell me she just graduated on Monday...on the Dean's List--and that she is now working on a medical assistant certificate which she will complete in the next few weeks. Her girls are excelling at their school and her marriage is thriving.
Some butterflies just take longer to break out of their cocoons.