Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Kids in America

Today's the last day for my seniors. I am happy for them; they have terrific futures ahead. But I am very sad for me. I know I'll never have another group quite like this one.

There's Jackie, whose family is from South Africa, and because our system of immigration sometimes punishes the people who try to get and stay her legally while the illegals suck up taxpayer money (this is one issue I am pretty conservative on), she and her family are getting on a plane next week to go back to Johannesburg. She desperately wanted to stay in the country, and go to college here, but she is keeping a positive attitude for her family's sake. She worked very hard for me, using her writing and desktop publishing talents to make professional-looking brochures about the electronic and print parts of our collection. Losing her as a student makes me unbearably sad because our whole country is losing her, and as ambitious and smart as she is, she would have done great things here.

Then there's Seth, who never met a technical problem he couldn't solve. Not only was he a great tech guy, he also has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor you don't usually find in people under 30. When I wrote him a letter of recommendation, he gifted me with an enormous bar of quality dark chocolate, slyly slipping the bar to me and saying it was "the good stuff." Anybody who favors dark chocolate automatically gains a few points in my book. He's going to Louisville next year and is excited about the academics, but dreads being that far away from a Chipotle. I'm telling you, he's like the son I never had.

There's Erin, who wrote beautifully for our library blog and also used her artistic ability to make posters advertising Banned Books Week, Teen Read Week, and National Library Week. She was pretty quiet, but proved the old adage that quiet rivers run deep. She's one of those people who, when you look them in the eye, you can see the wheels turning, digesting everything they see to later be put into the Great American Novel.

There's Bethany, who sings and acts and is going to a prestigious southern university next year as a pitstop to eventually seeing her name in lights on Broadway. And there's Kayla, and Shea, and Megan, and Kaitlyn, and Tyler, and Ethan, all who did their jobs well with little or no complaining.

But like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, there's one I'll miss most of all.

Amanda came in early every morning to get equipment out the door well before the bell rang. She is an avid reader, and she and I spent much of the year recommending books to each other and discussing the social issues explored in the best of the books we shared. She was the hardest worker I had, and any time I thanked her and told her so she said, "I like to do it." She could have spent the last two weeks of her high-school career coasting, but instead she organized a book drive to help an elementary school in southern Kentucky that was devastated by the recent flooding. Because of her, 18 boxes of books are going to go to those teachers whose entire classroom libraries got ruined when the flood waters rushed in, reaching seven feet inside the school building. When she came up with the idea, I knew my mother-in-law might not make it and I told her that I wouldn't have the time or the energy to help her.

"That's okay," she said. "I really want to do this by myself. I feel like I need to do this."

And she did. All I did was send out an email or two and allow her to store the books here.

When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I work in a high school, I almost always hear the same thing:

"I don't know how you do it, working with these kids today." And then they shake their heads.

These kids today are exactly how and why I do what I do. Yes, there are some that are troubling. But when I look at the Amandas, I know the truth: these kids today are alright. Our future is in good hands.

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