At my night job the year-end celebration is like a big house party. There’s an open mic, K___ (the GED proctor) does his DJ thang and mixes and scratches for all the kids brave enough to get up and rhyme. D___ (one of the youth counselors) emcees the night. It’s loud, dark, a little edgy and a lot of fun. I love that students don’t hesitate to get up and read or recite their work. I love that kids don’t hesitate to get up and freestyle. I love that last year José didn’t hesitate to challenge Carlos to a dance-off … and both of those young men could really, really dance. I love that B___ (one of the day teachers) doesn’t hesitate to get up and play bluegrass on his banjo. (I’m not kidding. It’s so incongruous as to make my brain bleed, but the students cheer for him and seem just as supportive as they are amused.)
There are also poetry, essay writing and art contests. Two sets of first, second and third place prizes are given out in each category (beginning-level students in one group, higher-level students in the other). The winners get gift certificates and either a medal or a trophy.
Josefina is an artist. It’s one of the first things she told me about herself. She draws manga. All the time. I saw the wheels start turning in her head the moment I announced th art contest. Tonight she brought in her project … and it is fantastic.
There is something almost-Chagall about her piece, which really blows me away. Who knows what will happen with the judging, but if she isn’t one of the winnters, I’ll think Tim Donaghy was involved with the judging!