By: Max Doyle
All throughout the trip I’ve been comparing my experiences on this NOLA Project with the trip I had had gone on for the first time in January. I know that quite a few people are new and the experiences each day and night are quite different, but you still can’t help but compare when you’re in the same place and a part of the same project at the same school. The idea of comparison made me wonder about just how much impact I had made during the January trip, and how much I would be able to make during this summer camp. I distinctly remember walking in the first day through the fenced, gated entrance and seeing many of the old fourth graders from English class during January, smiling and laughing with each other, most likely because of the new streak of blonde in the front of my hair. At first I assumed they were here for the summer camp and was excited. As we filed into the cafeteria and began organizing groups, I saw none of them in the cafeteria. I came to realize that they were at Wilson during the summer to spend their day on the third floor reserved for Summer School. I wasn’t entirely surprised, because the kids I had seen sitting outside the entrance hadn’t ever been particularly motivated during the school year.
At the same time, it still made me question my impact. It made me wonder if the children I had worked with in January were on such a definite path or developed enough as students that they would’ve ended up in the same position at the end of the year regardless of whether I had been in their classroom. This isn’t what I believe and I do see the impact of my presence every day in the camp, but I still felt unsure when I came to that realization on the first day. I often wonder where the children I work with will be in ten years. I can’t be around them for all of their youth and adolescence, I wouldn’t even be able to monitor them for a whole school year. And even if I could, that wouldn’t be practical or right. All children should at some point find a way to be their own person, develop enough to support themselves as much as possible when it’s not out of their hands. These children shouldn’t be viewed as any different. Just because their growing up experience may not mirror myself or others in the project doesn’t mean they should be viewed less as people and more as fragile items being cradled in our arms. I try to take that approach in much of my interaction with the kids, speaking to them with boundaries intact while still doing my best to give them the respect and acknowledged responsibility of a peer.