Some moments at Bear Creek Middle School can be crushing to an optimist like me. The stream of kids neglected (or abused) by "parents" who want children but won't care for them. The desperate search for male role models -- there are a handful of involved fathers in this school of 1,000. The struggle for academic achievement, as nearly half of the 8th graders have 2 or more F's. The kids who have had to sleep in cars because their mothers were kicked out of apartments.
But then you meet the faculty, which cares so damn much, which fights every day to help kids improve, which refuses to give up to save one soul at a time. I was lucky to spend time over the past few days with Shakera Reid, Christina Williams, Robert Grimes and Genia Brownlee, among others. I'd be honored to have any one of them take my kids under their caring wings.
And listen to what kids are saying about the Power of Half program:
"I think this really could change our school. I know it's changing me," one girl told me today.
"Can we come back after we graduate and help next year's 8th graders do their Power of Half work?" another girl asked.
One young man had an appearance before a juvenile court judge about his problems. He told the judge: "I haven't been doing well. But this Power of Half program that my school is doing, I think that can really help me work harder. I can improve my school work."
Small steps, but clear, visible progress.
The highlight of my day today was a poem that Deja Lee, an 8th grader, wrote and read for me and a few classmates. She wrote it in the style (and with the same title as) Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise."
Still I Rise
by Deja Lee
All my life, I've stared into the never-ending skies,
With pain filled tears in my eyes,
And say, Still I Rise.
People tellin me I'll never amount to anything. I'll never be nothing.
But in the end, Still I Rise.
Lonely in this world, brought down with no mercy.
And still I rise.
I rise like steam from a furiously boiling pot,
All of the world isn't happy, sad, I'm not.
I rise like a wave in a battered sea,
I break from the tides, now I'm free.
Still I rise, nobody can bring me down,
I rise and shine with joy, spreading love all around.
Still I rise, and I won't stop.
This is only the beginning of my future,
I will rise until I reach the top.