Current Student Stories
This letter is from a 19 year old girl. She was a student here several years ago and she came back last Thursday and asked me to please let her come back – when you read the letter you’ll see why. She has been here ON TIME every day this week and seems quite serious about doing what she needs to do. She wrote this to me all on her own – I retyped it exactly as she wrote it . It says everything….. She asked me to send it out to people with her name…..
~ Judy Friedman, Executive Director
Dear Ms. Judy,
I am a 19th grade student. I think we should have hot lunchs. We need to have many more field trips to go places and see new things. We do our best and get good grades. Also I think you all Learning Inc. staff are doing a great job with us as kids. As we learn its fun for us. I used to hate school. I never thought school was for me. But when I came back here I got BIG DREAMS ahead of me. SO I thank you all as a staff for helping me change my life around and for a exsample I started going here in 2005. I thought I could make it in this world with out an Education. But later on down the line I had got locked up and when I was sitting in the cell I was thinking about what the staff at Learning Inc. said to me and when I got released from jail I came back up to Learning and enrolled my self back in school. So Ms. Judy I thank you and the staff of Learning Inc. for putting me on the right track
This year we have a mom who has been particularly non supportive – 2 of her children are students here and she wants them to be here but she is usually angry and always makes excuses for their poor behavior (and believe me the behavior is often quite poor!). We have been doing what we always do - which includes phone calls, meetings with parent, meetings with child both separately and together. Another thing we’ve done is pay particular attention to anything positive her children do and we point it out to the mom. Today (and this is a first) she called Melissa to let us know that one of her children missed the bus and would be late. She also told Melissa that she and her daughter had a long talk and that the daughter opened up to her; they discussed how the daughter can better handle her frustration and the often provocative behaviors from other students. The mom assured us that her daughter would mind her “p’s and q’s” from now on and she also told Melissa that the daughter did a lot of make-up work over the weekend and would be bringing that in today. The take-away here is that the mom seems to have had an “AH HA” moment – this is the very first time she has proactively called us and the first time that she has indicated that she is working as a “partner” with us instead of an adversary. We’ve been working on this all year and finally we see movement in the right direction…
The other afternoon around 4:00 I heard some commotion coming from upstairs so I went to investigate. I found Chris (a young male student who has made some great strides in his behavior since September) standing in the upstairs hallway yelling at a teacher and saying “I didn’t do nothin’! I was doing my work! F*%# you man! “ and screaming it over and over again – his face was dark and cloudy – his eyes sort of unfocused and, even though he was yelling, quietly raging.
This was the situation: In class everyone (including Chris) had been doing their work when another student became unruly and was asked to leave the room. The unruly student became defiant and refused to leave so finally Mr. Barnes said “OK –you stay here and the class will leave”. That’s when Chris, who doesn’t like change, went off the deep end. Chris felt that he was being punished for doing the right thing and he wasn’t going to “take it”. He wasn’t listening to Mr. Barnes explain anything and so now Chris was being asked to go downstairs to the office and he wasn’t going.
I got upstairs and heard all the swearing etc. and told Chris to come on down and after swearing a few more times he did grudgingly listen to me and started moving. John Dende (social worker) was right behind me. When the 3 of us got downstairs Chris sat on the hall bench and I told him to just take a moment and breathe – “don’t say anything –just breath”. He did – then I told him that I didn’t know what had happened upstairs but in the 45 seconds I had been involved ,his behavior had been inappropriate – swearing, yelling. Then I asked him if he was calm enough so that he could talk to the social worker and he nodded yes.
Now here’s the “special” part:
I don’t know why but I asked him if I could give him a hug , he said “yes” , and stood up, his head down. I started to hug him and just like a small child he really hugged back – sort of just held on – and there was something so mournful, so melancholy, so heart-rending and almost anguished about the whole moment… and so I hugged him for a long minute or so and then gave him a pat on the back and left him and the social worker to talk. …and came into my office and was overcome with the crystal-clear knowledge of how truly difficult life often is for our students.
~ Judy Friedman, Executive Director
Last year a 13 year old African American female with lead poisoning walked through our doors spiitin’ mad and spittin’ fire. At her previous school she would hide in the corner and cry because she was scared of the other kids. Last year she was an incredible challenge – she was mean spirited to herself and others, was loud, defiant, had more office referrals than anyone else in Learning Inc. history (she had her very own office referral binder), and just did not want to be here. The student told Billy that “I hope you die so I can spit on your grave.” There were many times that I felt Learning Inc. was not the right place for her and I would have been happy for her to leave. However her mother said she wanted her child to stay because she noticed improved behavior at home. This year the student is back…and much to everyone’s surprise has so far set a great example for the new students.
Three years ago a 15 year old African American female who had been out of school for two years came to us. She was a quiet and respectful young lady who had been severely beaten and sexually assaulted on her way home from school. Not surprisingly she struggled with feelings of depression and isolation and was quiet and reserved at Learning Inc. BUT we all saw the positive changes that she made. By the end of her second year she was an active participant in class discussions and Learning Inc. social events. She is now one of our older students chronologically and developmentally and is maturing into a well rounded young adult, and we are proud of her.
Right before the holiday break a student walked off with one of our laptops – she came back from break and tried denying that she took it but then admitted that she had. We told her that she must have really needed that laptop and if she needed it that badly she could keep it and either pay for it or work it off. She decided to bring it back – promised she would do that the next day. We didn’t see her for 3 weeks – we called and said we would not call the police as long as she returned to school and she finally did – with her mom and the laptop. We had a long conversation about trust, betraying it and how to earn it back. Her attendance has been good ever since…not perfect but good. She comes in and gives me a hug in the morning.