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School is still in session for GED students and I've been busy supporting instructors.

On Monday I was walking from the train to a GED site in the Bronx. I ran into a former student standing in front of an apartment building. She told me she passed the last regents exam that was alluding her and was headed to college in September. She had many changes during her time at the school and struggled when many of her friends graduated without her. I was excited to hear the great news. Conscious of my time, I told her I would stop by on my way back to the train. I walked to the next building..a five-story office complex that houses one of the most comprehensive social service agencies in the borough, probably the city.

After a successful first meeting of a professional learning network of instructors, I left the building with a supervisor at 5pm. I told her the story of my student and how I regularly run into students in my frequent visits to this part of the Bronx.

As soon as we left the building she told me to cross the street:

"There is criminal activity in those buildings."

The same buildings that I stood in front of and had a conversation with a college-going student. I stopped, looked and didn't see my former student there.

The supervisor's back was already turned to cross the street. My reflection in her plaid top separated into small squares of bewilderment. It was like my throat was being squeezed by her aging hands. I tried to open my mouth to speak but I could barely breath.

I had to pick up my pace to keep up with the her walking in double-time to the train. She asked me what train I took. The #2. A few stops back to Harlem. I asked her her train. She was taking #5 to catch the Metro North.

This experience held onto my bones all night. I told it to my family and my colleagues the next day. Writing it down has finally allowed some of the pressure to lift.

What does it mean to be a community organization if you're not serving the community next door? What does it mean to work in a community that you fear?

When are we going to stop crossing the street?


This is also posted on The Education Traveler.

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