Monday, August 13, 2012


(Rob after graduation ceremonies this past June.)

We first started working with Rob when he was a tenth grader at Cesar Chavez.  His first year geometry teacher, Ms Baker, astutely realized that she had on her hands a hard-working kid who needed help, someone who hadn't been diagnosed as special ed so wasn't "entitled" to receive special services.  One of the services RICH provides is the ability to do our own assessment of a child and provide intensive services if necessary. We have met dozens of students over the years who may read well but are disabled mathematically.  These children are seldom classified as needing special education services and often get promoted for showing up to school most days and being compliant children.

We worked with Rob on and off for three years.  We were there when he needed us for math help, and our ace tutor, Barbara Taylor, helped Rob, complete his senior thesis on abortion.

I sat down with Rob recently.  Here are some excerpts from our interview:

"You're one of my heroes in the twelfth grade.  I don't know if I adequately expressed that.  When did you first learn life was unfair?"
"Probably when my parents passed away."
"When was that?"
"When I was twelve, thirteen.  Compared to other people's situation, living in foster homes, my situation was easier.  It could have been worse.  My aunt took care of me, made sure I had clothes, stuff like that."
"Do you think your parents would be proud of you?  What were they like?"
"I guess they would.  They made me laugh all the time."
"What was the best part of your aunt's raising you?"
"Everything.  If it wasn't for her, I don't know where I'd be."

Rob was at Kramer Middle School when his parents died.
"I almost got put out of Kramer.  I had a chip on my shoulder."  
"What made you change?"  
"Probably when I got to Chavez.  I learned how to control my temper.  Chavez gave me the push I needed to get on track."
"You never struck me as disobedient."
"I knew who to show it to, and who not to show it to.  But my uncle started getting involved.  It was not a pretty scene."

"You see all the kids who didn't make it.  What do you think about that?"
"They couldn't deal with Chavez's strictness.  They just didn't want to do it."

"Was there one teacher who was particularly helpful?"
"Everyone did their part.  Miss Barbara, there was the star.  She broke my thesis down so I could put it in my own words.  Other teachers try to do it their way."

Rob had no dramatic story to tell me, just one of persistence, discipline, and hard work.  He is 19, now too old to apply for a fireman's job as an apprentice, and he is worried about the cost of college.  He was admitted to Garrett College,  in Western Maryland, but he is worried about the cost and the cultural change.  He is one of thousands of good kids who face a tough economy and need to make really good choices in order to get on a livable wage track.  Knowing Rob, I know he'll make it.