She sits at the table every week in Club; she was once the quiet kid but now has turned into the leader of the group, as she is the oldest. As she leads the conversation, the conversation turns to school. Not a single kid can say one positive things about school, “the teachers suck,” “I hate going to school,” “I haven’t been to school in weeks.” The ministry leaders and I all look at each other, stunned by the conversation, as education is one of the keys to success in life. How are we going to get the kids to change the way they think about school and make sure they start going to school. After some brainstorming sessions, the leaders decided to sit down and talk individually with the kids about school, what do they like, what are the challenges and what do they want to be in the future.
As Pam sat with Asha, she learned that she does not go every day and many days she is late, so she has to go to in-school suspension, where there are no instructors, just worksheets. She is not passing any of her classes and her highest grade is a 32%. Pam left her meeting with Asha in tears, as a teacher herself, Pam is shocked that the school system seems to be failing Asha. Therefore, the next Club night our topic of discussion changed, and we focused on how we as Christians are called to live a life for Christ. When presented with that statement, I turned to Asha and asked her how she could live a life for Christ. It took a few minutes of silence and she said that she could be a leader and show the other kids and her younger siblings that following directions and doing her “job” of going to school could help show that she is serious about her walk with Christ and that in everything we do we should do for Jesus. My heart jumped for joy with she said this, did we just have a breakthrough?
We challenged the kids of Albany City Life, that if they could attend school every day in the month of December, over Christmas break we would bring them to the movies. Asha asked that a text message be sent to her each morning to help as an encouragement to get up and go, so a text message is what she got. As the weeks went by we lost a few to the challenge, but Asha kept going. Even on those cold winter mornings, she walked to school and got there on time. When Christmas break started, we got her attendance records and she completed the challenge and was able to go see the new Spider-Man movie, along with her brother Derek, and another Club kid, who completed the challenge; it was the first movie he ever saw in the theater.
When I met with Asha one on one, I asked her how the school challenge went and she said at first it was hard, but once she got used to it, it was easy to wake up and she was happy because she was learning more, and homework and test were easier for her now. She said she still had more to improve on, but school is more fun now that she is showing up. I turned to her and said, “you know that is just like living a life for Christ. It is not easy at first, because you have to change your worldly ways, and sometimes we stumble and fall as we keep striving to live a life for Christ. However, it does become easier and asking for people to help us along the way, like a text message to remind us for school, is great, that is why going to Club and church is important, because we need to surround ourselves with people who will remind us of our commitment to Christ.” It was that moment she turned and smiled at me and said “I love Jesus and school.”
*Names have been changed