This year has been a thrilling year for me. I just graduated from college in May, I was accepted to Teach for America, moved to Chicago for training, moved to Detroit in August, and began at DAA in September; talk about an exciting year. Just when I thought I had reached my peek for excitement for the year, DAA was featured on Ellen only to provide the ULTIMATE excitement… so I thought. The most exciting part of all was the endless donations that we have received because of our story that was showcased on one of the most popular talk shows.
Initially, I was a bit worried about all the press we were getting being a first year school, when there are possibly many schools that also do great work; but our school is unique. We are unique because we provide students, that are trapped in an institutionalized system that prevents them from success, with high quality instruction, curriculum, and food RIGHT in their neighborhood. No, our kids do not have to pay college tuition to get the best elementary education and no, our kids are not bussed out to suburban neighborhoods where they experience a culture shock that is so impactful it shakes up their complexities with identity at the age of 5. So, when I think back to the worry I had about our press, I say, “WE DESERVE IT and thank you kindly.”
I would have loved to say that worrying about our questionably deserved press was the least of my worries, but I would be “telling a story.” The next worry came from the endless donations that we received from all of our GENEROUS supporters. I questioned whether it was too much and did our kids really need this. Then, I spoke to a few of my parents and they had cancelled Christmas and not because they forgot to call Santa. They had cancelled Christmas because they barely had enough money to keep their home let alone provide their kids with gifts. See, those donations came at the best time for most of the kids.
My students believed Santa had taken off this year and last year. These are students that are placed in a bad situation only to have their circumstances solidified by the story of Santa and the ideology of “good” boys and girls get presents and “naughty ones don’t.” For most of my students, they believed that they were inherently “naughty” because they never got presents. Those donations couldn’t come at a better time. The gifts that the students got, everyday, allowed them to feel like people really did love them, Santa was indeed real and that they were not inherently evil. It allowed them to feel the joy that many children feel everyday and they deserve it more than anyone.
Being a first year teacher and experiencing this with my students makes me want to push harder to give them a promise to a better life. The cycle of their conditions will end because they have more options; options that they should have had from birth.
So, this post is a sigh of relief and a thank you. Thank you, generous donors, for giving my kids the opportunity to feel American, to feel loved, and to feel like a kid.
Thank you, Kyle, for seeing something in me and making me apart of the DAA team. All of my friends are jealous because I truly do work at a magical wonderland where learning is truly fun, buckets are being filled, and kids are appreciated. Thank you, Ellen, for providing this opportunity to showcase our wonderful school and the wonderful students that make our school. Finally, thank you to all our loving supporters who believe in our mission and want to see this dream be manifested.
Thank you and Happy holidays.