Yesterday, when I arrived to the digital media arts class I saw Tony, the usually sociable student, sitting quietly by himself. Other students noticed he wasn’t his usual self and tried to invite him in on their conversation, but he wanted to be left alone. He said he was going to drop out. The male dominated classroom was suddenly filled with uproar, ranging from “do it”, “you got to graduate” to “me too”. Although Danielle and I planned on starting our lesson as soon as possible, a more important issue needed to be addressed. The drop-out rate is a major issue at schools across the nation. We sat back and listened to what six young men thought about dropping out, graduation, and college.
Mardez, the most focused young man I met at the Academies at Anacostia, told everyone how he dropped out in 9th because of lack of care/support from his teachers and a crisis at home. He captivated everyone and for once nobody was talking over someone else. He had the floor. He told us how one of his 9th grade teachers embarrassed him in front of his peers about his wrinkled clothing. He said his teachers didn’t care about what he was going through at home and said if he just showed up they would pass him with Ds. He said that he didn’t want to breeze by with Ds.
It almost brought me to tears when he talked about his mother trying to pay bills (the landlord put their belongings out in the snow). It is amazing to see how strong he is now, and how he didn’t just do the easy thing – give up. He told us it was hard to get back in school, but once he enrolled again he has stayed at the Academies at Anacostia. Currently, Mardez is a senior, anticipating graduation next semester.
After receiving some words of wisdom and some encouragement, Tony’s spirits were a little bit uplifted.