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Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One Park

I went for a walk in the park the other day, since the weather was so beautiful. My neighborhood has a nice, sprawling park with a little pond in the middle that is often inhabited by ducks. Because it was such a beautiful day, there were tons of people out enjoying spring.

I walked through the park, admiring the trees and flowers and animals that were all around. And I people watched.

I saw tons of families with kids enjoying the park. I saw friends and couples walking. I saw people with their pets. But something really struck me about what I saw.

As I walked into the entrance to the park, there were lots of Orthodox families milling around. Men with their black hats and suits. Women in long skirts and long sleeves. Little boys with yarmulkes and peyos. Little girls with dresses and knee socks. Babies in carriages. Picnics, fishing, playing, rollerblading. Everyone is on break for Pesach, and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

I continued walking through the park and the population became more tan. Tons of Hispanic families milling around. A soccer game with very impressive players had ensued. Little boys running and playing in shorts and T-shirts. Little girls running and swinging. Babies in carriages. Picnics, fishing, playing, rollerblading. Everyone is on Spring Break and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

One park. The same activities. The big difference was dress code (and language). No interacting. No mixing. One park.

I thought a lot about it as I was walking home. I kinda understand it. Kinda. But it makes me sad.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Highs and Lows

It amazes me how, in a few hours, I can see such a diversity of experiences from the student body that I am interacting with at my internship. Today has to be a record for highs and lows.

I walked in the door today and was quickly whisked off to help conduct interviews with the scholarship committee of the school. I sat in on approximately 12 interviews of the top 20% of the graduating class, all college-bound, all with dreams, and all who had worked incredibly hard to get where they were. These students are not headed to Yale or Harvard. Many of them are not documented, so all they can hope for is a community college. And probably more than half have been in America less than three or four years. But they have all worked so hard to try to have a future for themselves.

We interviewed a bunch of students who were going for nursing degrees, a student who wants to be a pastry chef, a student who composed a poem on the spot during the interview (he was awesome!) and students wanting to be teachers. None of them can afford college on their own, but they are going after their dreams regardless.

During the interviews, the previous day was mentioned a few times. Apparently, over the weekend there had been some incidents in the community that had caused some strife. Several fights had broken out, with non-students being let in the building. Concern was expressed about security; several students stated they didn't feel very safe. It was a little scary.

After the interview, I headed upstairs to see my one-on-one students. I got word that one of the students I had seen in the fall had just dropped out of school because she's pregnant. I hate to say that I wasn't incredibly surprised. My other students are dealing with a host of issues relating to past abuse and major anger and violence problems. Their grades are not good. One has so many absences it is questionable whether she will get credit this year. Her brother is still in high school at 19 years old. Another brother dropped out.

Such highs and lows in one building. In one day.