This past week I continued work with Choice Tutoring which helps educate juvenile offenders in the Baltimore area. I found this night especially fulfilling because I was on the planning committee to help with the events of the evening. Because the age and grade level of all of the youths vary greatly, coming up with a fun and exciting way to stimulate their minds while catering to each of their individual needs was especially challenging. We decided that we would give the youths a journal question and twenty minutes to write about it.
When I interviewed for the program I was asked the question “How can I relate to youths who lead live that are so different from mine?” This question echoed in my mind this week. Because the Choice Program works with a number of different groups that rotate periodically I am able me to meet all kinds of youths from all kinds of backgrounds. This ensures that no two College Nights will be the same. As I looked around the room this week I noticed that our newest group could not be any more different. The majority of youths were black, raised by single parents, and have a low economic status. How could I relate to these people or even try to begin to see things through their world lens when are lives are so overtly different?
When it came time for our educational event, we handed out notebooks and asked the students to write out the ten most important, people, things, or ideas in their lives. The tutors themselves were also asked to complete this assignment. After we had finished we were all asked to share what we had written. The moment we began to do this the answer to the burning question in my mind became painfully obvious. It was clear how similar we really were.
I could not help but be reminded of “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes. Despite obvious racial and economic differences, these youths are just like me. We both care about friends, family, music and, yes, even our cell phones. Although we might not look it, we are similar in ways that are much more significant than our external disparity.
Just like in the Hughes poem a cliché assignment helped to free our group from the constraints of our differences and allowed us to see each other for who we truly are; people. This simple fact is something I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time. No matter what the external differences may be we all share the same hopes and fears and can relate to each other because we are all people. Whether we know it or not our lives are intrinsically intertwined just by the fact that we are human beings who have interacted with each other. These interactions are enough for us tutors to influence our tutees in a positive way. It is even enough for our tutees to influence us, and teach us a thing or two about real human connection.