Can I take a moment of selfish privilege?
I love my job (but please no one forward this to my boss).
Don’t get me wrong, if we’re being totally honest, working with kids and seniors…well…it sucks sometimes. It can mean getting up at dawn, leaving work at dusk, taking work home–and sometimes it’s a pride-swallowing trudge where those you seek to serve reward you with headache and heartache, especially after grading periods.
The pay is cool, but if I were in it for the money, I’d need more.
No, my love for this job is not money, not recognition, not title nor position. And on some days, it’s not even the folk I’m privileged to serve on a daily basis, champions as they may be.
For the past 8 years now, I have served as a Director for the Edna Martin Christian Center. EMCC is a 75-year old institution that has grown to become the community hub for our surrounding community. Since our agency acquired a site to accommodate growth last year, I’ve been blessed to manage a site that serves over 400 school aged youth and over 175 senior citizens through comprehensive supports.
As an unofficial member of the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood, my love is actually born from 20 plus years of professional service to a community that, despite the ravages of high poverty, crime and low educational attainment, demonstrates a resilience and resolve that affirms the work.
The Martindale Brightwood Community in Indianapolis near East Side is one that mirrors many African American neighborhoods in America, particularly those in low-income urban centers.
This community of roughly 12,000 households faces issues that are damaging, but unfortunately aren’t unique. Less than 10 percent of Martindale Brightwood residents have gained post-secondary degrees, with the true high school graduation rate hovering around 50 percent.
But when have numbers alone told the whole story? There is a spirit of cooperation embedded deep into this neighborhood, one that is beginning to manifest itself among our school communities. Within a five-mile radius of the Center, the neighborhood houses traditional public schools, magnet and Montessori schools, charter schools, private schools, each of whom serve students also served by the Center. Newly introduced this year were Innovation Schools, hybrid partnerships with the Indianapolis Public Schools District and Charters or other operators. These schools are serving the students in greatest need. If there is any “creaming” (intentionally or otherwise selecting only the students most likely to thrive), it’s a reversed form, as there is an intentionality to recruit some of the toughest to serve students and families.
Most recently, the tension and political wrangling surrounding school reform have given way to a common acceptance that no system, school or even Center can accomplish broader educational goals on an Island. Slowly, that acceptance is translating into mutual respect, support and most importantly coordination in a neighborhood where choice and mobility can be both assets and liabilities.
And that’s where I find satisfaction.