One of my main motivations for taking an internship with Alternatives for Girls was to discover what the children of Detroit would be like. I have received an offer from Teach for America to teach in this city post-graduation, so I felt it pertinent to get a sense of whether I could be effective in an instructor-like role there. What specifcally would the issues of working with this population be, and could I handle them? Over the past three weeks, the children I have worked with have been helping me develop a clearer answer to this question.
One striking way in which this has been the case is seeing how major political issues in this country are affecting my charges on a personal level. About half the girls of AFG are Latina, and many have family members that are recent immigrants. A sentiment along the lines of, “My parents tell me that the government might make my loved one leave the country” has been expressed to me on mulitple occasions. The majority of these young women are too young to understand the nuances of this country’s debate on legal and illegal immigration, but nonethless they bring anxieties about them into this summer program and everywhere else. This is definitely something I needed to understand before I stepped into the classroom so that I can be the best support system I can be for my future students.
I have also learned to think about issues of access. For example, when we took the girls on a field trip to a water park, Alternatives for Girls provided many of the camp participants with bathing suits beforehand. The organization also takes care of all transportation for its campers, picking them up and dropping them off at home each day. This has reminded me to not make assumptions that my lifestyle – the items I have on hand, as well as the activities that are reasonable easy for me to do – is universal. My potential students would have different resources and needs than what I may be used to.
Most importantly, however, these girls have taught me that they are just like any other kids in so many ways! Many spend their weekends swimming in a family member’s pool or playing fun games on an iPad. They have favorite TV shows, loving relationships with their families, pride in the cute outfit they wore that day, and huge amouts of friendliness and enthusiasm to give out to those who take the time to get to know them. In other words, these young women enjoy many of the same simple pleasures as any other kids I have worked with in the past. It would be an honor to be the teacher of students like this someday.