Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why We Don't "Stay in Our Lane"

One of our students, a gifted athlete, received a full scholarship to a college in North Carolina with a 14% graduation rate.  He became our student because he was not yet reading at a functional reading level.  Like hundreds of students in Washington, D.C. each year, he graduated from eighth grade reading at the second grade level or lower.

His tutor, Juanita Irving, has not had a lot of time to work with him.  He was not on her regular list of students, members of the class of 2016 with reading challenges.  But he was recommended to her for help by his teachers.

His college acceptance was trumpeted by some at his school as a great achievement.  We wish the student all the best, but when I started to ask about his placement at a college with a dubious reputation, I was told to "stay in my lane."

Fortunately, the student's case manager, an incredibly dedicated teacher, has been in contact with the special education department at the college and pledges to continue that communication.  This teacher is confident the student will be successful both as a student and an athlete at this college.

RICH's founding was a prototype of changing lanes.  In the spring of 2003 I was tutoring for profit, serving families who could afford weekly (or more) tutoring at $90/session.  That summer, I moved out of my lane, founding an organization that will not hesitate to help low-income students succeed in any way we can.  This has meant getting eyeglasses to a student who has needed them for years, helping students read, or helping students find the right college or career placement.  Our interventions in our students' lives has meant stepping on toes occasionally when the other adults in a child's life have their own interests or agenda that do not exactly coincide with our students' best interests.

Our partners do ask us to provide more and more services, as demonstrated by the Chavez Schools' earmarking $100,000 for our programs this year.  We have turned down three other schools who would like our services.  The need in Wards 7 and 8 are nearly endless, and we are glad to be there even if we don't always stay in our lane.