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WARNING: This post discusses my experience with violent, troubled youth and may be disturbing to some viewers. 

Today marks the last day of my EPAY position. Good-bye troubled youths pretending to want to earn your GED! Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. Some students came in and rocked this program with their determination. Others were too distracted or afraid. Drugs. Alcohol. Abusive relationships. These are the few things these youth were dealing with on top of the constant pang of a society that they believed were looking down on them for dropping out of high school among other things. But why care what society thinks? These kids were raised by delinquents; by people that purposely eschew social norms and expectations, whatever they may be. I'm not a sociologist or psychologist by any means, just a person working with students whom seem to bear burdens no child should. This is the population of students I have worked with the past two years: students who cut themselves, drink until they black out, take any sort of drug they can get their hands on, get arrested, go to court, and become violent and angry with others. Sometimes they are angry with us. Sometimes we were threatened, yelled at, sworn at; and we've had students throw things, kick things, punch things, and walk out. This is why we have a counselor on hand, even though some students wouldn't even talk to her. They are angry with their situations, and figure that they don't matter. Most of them are angry and depressed, and most people don't understand that anger and depression go hand-and-hand. Most of these students think they are dumb, either because their parents have told them so or society has told them so. Sometimes their friends even tell them so. Sometimes their friends tell them to skip class and go get high with them. I'm thinking of one particular student now. He is bipolar and dyslexic, so learning has always been difficult for him. His mother is fed up with him, thinking he is making excuses, when really he is into drugs and hurting himself because he thinks he is inadequate. His friends tell him he is retarded. It is so sad to hear this from such a wonderful young man, who can learn, he just needed the right support. He says he wants to go to college so he can skip the fact that he dropped out of high school and just say he is taking college courses. The fact that he feels the need to veil the fact that he dropped out of high school is disturbing to me. Is society really that shallow?

Teaching these students has been challenging but the rewards were worth it. I've been a tutor, a friend, a peer, a teacher, a role model, an authority figure, a cheerleader, a comrade, a mentor, and a companion. While working with them I've had to be sensitive, tough, caring, giving, persistent, forgiving, understanding, reliable, and flexible. This experience has changed me, and I am most grateful.

At the end of this day I will say good-bye to my co-workers, who have helped to shape my teaching and mentoring style and have helped me to grow professionally as well as personally.

It is my last day because this is a grant-funded program and the  grant was significantly cut and my position was eliminated. I am not bitter about this. I am just glad the program is able to continue for another year, even if it is without me. These students need this program to remind them that they are worth it, and that they can be successful, even if they think the world doesn't think so.

With that, be happy today. It is a beautiful day!

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