Tonight, the student that changed my life was honored for receiving the scholarship that will change his life. I got to be there, at the University of Maryland campus, and it was a great day.
I've realized that one thing that makes me emotional is hearing about kids who are going to be first-generation college students. As the speaker said, these students are making a new legacy and a new life for their families. Seeing these young men and women from the streets of Baltimore get scholarships to go to college makes me believe that the Horatio Algar idea of the American Dream can come true in select situations. "Bobby" was born poor and black to a couple of asshole biological parents and grew up in a neighborhood with little but drugs and crime around him, he was still able to make it this far. It makes me not only proud of him, but proud to be part of a process that can make it happen for him, and, heck, even proud to be an American.
Bobby's presentation was the last of 14. I told him they saved the best for last. Later, I chuckled with him at the presenter's change of his diction - he had wrote that he started a marching band of "ex-drugdealers" and she changed it to "wayward youth" - and got goosebumps when the presenter mentioned the word "redemption" when describing Bobby's experience.
I felt so drawn into all of these kids' stories (including immigrant stories, stories of kids from families of ten, almost all will be first generation college students), that it was a very emotional afternoon for me. I felt bowled over. After the presentation, a woman came up to me and asked if I was the teacher who wrote the longest recommendation she had ever read. I smiled, and said that must be me, and she then told me that she knew my alter-ego. I had a feeling that a reader had a connection with the university, judging from some very knowing comments that have been left on this blog. She smiled, said my secret was safe with her, and I went over to hug Bobby.
I gave his great aunt a ride to the place, and the three of us drove back to Baltimore (the drive took well over an hour because of an accident that backed up traffic for hours), where we talked about college life and Bobby's plans. Bobby has recently decided to live with my baseball team captain, a decision that I'm happy with. They're not close friends, but they're friendly acquaintances, and both are decent, hard-working kids - not partiers. I think the match will work great. Bobby has decided he won't wrestle his freshmen year, but thinks he's going to do marching band. He doesn't have a computer yet but I'm going to help him out to get one. He's going to fix up his old bike to ride around campus. He's going to need to buy a fan because his dorm isn't air-conditioned. He is interested in hall government. He's onhis way.
Bobby's growing up.
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