“What if he doesn’t like me?”
“What if I can’t help him?”
“What am I doing?”
“He would be looking to me for answers. What if I don’t have them?”
It may sound cheesy, but what I learned that week is that these students at the elementary school where I would be working for a week weren’t looking for perfection. They just appreciate the effort. They were glad somebody cared.
Children pick up on everything and they can sense if you are truly concerned or if you only see them as a burden or obligation. So, regardless of whether he didn’t like me, or if I couldn’t help him, or if I didn’t have all the answers, the important thing is that I wanted to. I wanted to help all the children; therefore, I became what each of them needed me to be. And for each one, that was something different.
Some needed me to be stern in order to reach them, so I became stern. Some needed me to be gentle to reach them, so I became gentle. Some frustrated me to no end, and others made my job easy—but by Friday, I had to hold back tears as I gave them each long good-bye hugs and watched them file out of the gym behind their teacher.
I missed out on ASB my freshman and sophomore year, because I was waiting for my friends to apply to go with me. This year is my junior year and I was running out of time.
So without consulting my friends or asking them to join me, I applied. And I am thankful I did.
ASB has been one of my most fulfilling college experiences. Every time one of my students showed me they understood a concept that they initially struggled with, I was overjoyed. My smile couldn’t get any bigger.
The transformations they made were amazing. The first day, at least half of them obviously didn’t want to be there.
“Can I use the bathroom?,” someone would ask—seemingly every five minutes.
“Are we done yet?,” another would ask while fellow students squirmed and made faces at their classmates.
But by Wednesday, they were asking if they could stay in their session with me longer. On Thursday and Friday, Wilbur came up to me at the beginning of lunch and asked if we could start his tutoring session early. And he had not even eaten yet.
The daily grind of college had made me self-absorbed. I’m constantly focused on myself, obsessing about how I am going to get the best grades, the best internship and the best job after I graduate next May. I feel like I’m always taking from others—read “parents”—without offering anything in return.
This year, I realized I had not used my influence as a Howard student in a positive way. A lot of people, including myself, like to flaunt the Howard name, but what are we really doing with it? Instead of using it as a way to separate myself from others, I used it in Atlanta as a way to build a connection with seven inspirational children who have left an everlasting mark on my heart.