Continuing on a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure.
I thank God, often, that he allows me to be in the right place at the right time. My love language is service; I feel whole when I can give back, help or support someone, anyone. Yesterday, I went to Starbucks before heading to the gym to work out. I am working on losing 20 pounds, so I went in to buy a protein box before my workout. As I was waiting for my iced tea, one of our former teachers in Lynwood approached me with tears in her eyes. She was sitting with one of her former students who had reached out to her for support.
As she started to break down, she said, “You’re Gary Hardie, right?” I said, “Yes!” To which, she replied, “Good, I need your help! I’m with one of my former students. She needs help and I don’t know what to do.”
She shared with me that her student was kicked out her house today and had no place to go. She asked me if I could refer her to any services. This student had just graduated from one of our high schools this year and had turned 18 a few months ago. I was happy to help any way I could, but this situation was challenging for a couple of reasons.
This student was undocumented and our district offices were closed because it was after hours. We had no clue who we could call. I reached out to my superintendent, surveyed my network and reached out to people I knew who worked with undocumented students to see if they could help. We found her aunt who agreed to take her in temporarily. We continued to make calls to see what we could do for her going forward. She needed a safe place until she headed off to college in the fall.
But as I made calls, I could not help but feel helpless like I was just spinning my wheels. “These kids deserve better,” I muttered to myself. I was frustrated it was so hard to find resources. It should not matter what time it is or whether or not a student has social security number. We should be ready and able to respond with support regardless of how a student’s situation looks.
Growing up in poverty, our students develop a type of grit that no other experience can build. Our students are born with physical, environmental, and societal disadvantages. Nevertheless, they excel in every arena they are allowed in. This grit pushes them to try and try again after failing because they know the survival of a generation often depends on their successes. Often, when I read about success stories from the inner city, I am bothered by the tone of articles where students making it out of the hood are celebrated because of all of the odds stacked against them. While the success of our students should be widely celebrated often, I am not as shocked as others might be when I hear of these success stories because I expect nothing less from our students. Every kid from the hood can achieve great success if given the opportunities and resources. There is no secret recipe; when our youth’s resilience is met with opportunity and resources, greatness ensues.
As resilient as our students are, when they have no place else to turn, they will turn to their educators and the caring adults they trust that made all the difference in their lives. On the one hand, this is a testament to the fact how profound an impact educators have, but also pointed to the glaring need for space where resources are centralized. When students come to us at any age, we have to be ready to support them. If we say we are truly committed to supporting our young people from cradle to career, this means our commitment to their success extends beyond graduation from our high schools.
Our kids can have all the resilience in the world, but it is our job to provide them with the resources and opportunities to put that skill into play; this is especially vital to our most vulnerable population of students, even after they graduate.
I was pleased to wake up to texts stating this student has been supported with resources and temporary housing and is scheduled to meet with district staff next week to ensure this student is supported as she heads off to college this fall.
Gary Hardie is a school board member for the Lynwood School District in Los Angeles, California. He writes for One Public Education.