“Mom, I did it!’

9 Jan

Vidal, an Eagle Rock student, delivers his "presentation of learning," a report on what he has learned and accomplished.

The last week of the trimesters at Eagle Rock School consist of Presentations of Learning (POL) Week and graduation. Every trimester, students give presentations of their personal and academic learning to a panel of outside community leaders, while graduates are given the choice to choose their own panel. It is a process in which students must synthesize their overall learning experience. They do this each trimester until they graduate.

This final week of the trimester reminded me why I do what I do and why I love what I do. Working with teenagers daily can be a trying task. Anyone who’s worked extensively with youth can tell you that though they are the future, sometimes you want to say “future be doomed.”

The process of positive change, especially personal change, can be a tumultuous process. The students of Eagle Rock are warriors and survivors of battles they have chosen to fight by educating themselves. During the 10 weeks of the trimester, when a new struggle emerges every day, sometimes I lost sight of this fact. But when the Presentations of Learning began, it all started to make sense.

During their POLs, students passionately discussed what they learned and how they have changed. One new student created a graphic novel about his journey to Eagle Rock. Another student talked about the shell he had created for himself. At the end, after he stood up in front of everyone and committed to breaking his shell and opening himself up, he punched through a papier mache shell he made.

All the progress displayed in those POLs was the result of hard work and determination from staff, students, and family.

Graduation at Eagle Rock School.

But seeing students graduate really put the icing on the cake. On Dec. 16, Eagle Rock School graduated eight students. At one point in their lives, all the graduates thought they would never graduate high school. From this graduation, I will specifically remember one student named Scott. At the end of his speech he choked up and fought back tears as he said, “Mom, I did it!”

Soctty, one of the graduates.

That one statement encapsulated years of hard work from his parents and the staff. Scotty wasn’t always the easiest student, but no one gave up on him, and thus he didn’t give up on himself. When I find myself getting frustrated, I’ll just think back to Scotty. I want to work to create more moments like that.

The staff at Eagle Rock School had a final message for the students before they took off for their four-week break. They told them to take care of their minds and bodies. But what was most impactful was the message that the world cannot wait for us. We have to educate ourselves to change the world. They told the students, “You are needed.” Even though change can take time, we can’t afford to slow down our own efforts. Those students who graduated are a testament to that.

So I challenge you, in whatever you do, not to give up.  You may not see the fruits of your labor, but you will have planted a seed that will grow.


One Response to ““Mom, I did it!’”

  1. Dan Condon January 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Learn more about Vidal by listening to his StoryCorps interview here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i58M9kMmKi8&feature=relmfu

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