The name has changed for the better. The location has changed for the better. After volunteering in The Learning Center at Hope Ministries for two months this summer, I know that the whole situation has changed for the better.
I used to pray "God help me" as I walked into the mission to meet my adult education classes 20 years ago. It was dingy and the smell of unwashed bodies was always there. I never knew who would show up for class after a weekend because often students were asked to leave after breaking rules.
Going back to Hope has brought back memories of my former students. Dale was my first student to achieve a GED. When I was concerned about my own son home alone during a storm, Dale said not to worry. His mother would leave for a week at a time as soon as he could use a can opener. I thought, " Look how you turned out, Dale." He had been living in an unheated garage before his residency at the mission. He died a few years later in an apartment above a bar--alone I think. His siblings never responded to my offer to give them a painting he had made for me.
And then there was J, who may still be around somewhere. He convinced me to sign for a safety deposit box with him at a bank downtown. Years later, I was called because he had not paid the rent. I opened the box with a clerk and all that was in it was two pennies. Somehow that "two cents worth" symbolized a lot more to me. J used to give me lottery tickets. What would I have done if I had won? Give it to him?
I brought students to our local zoo a few times. One trip with just two students was very memorable. One, a young white woman, told me she was a nymphomaniac. The other, an older black man, was living at the mission until he could leave to be a missionary to the Philippines, he said. We were an unlikely trio but we had a great time seeing the animals and eating ice cream together.
Today T and I worked together in a comfortable, air-conditioned room. There are computers available for us to use. There are books and a copier and other supplies. T has been faithful in attendance and we are both supported by staff. She has made excellent progress in two months. I am delighted and so is she. A GED begins to seem like a realistic possibility.
I am glad to be a volunteer and not an employee of the school system any more. No records, no staff meetings, no discipline situations--just the enjoyment and rewards of working with one motivated student.