Back in the mid-nineties I was active in a small, black Pentecostal church in inner-city Syracuse, NY. One of the hats I wore in that church was assistant to the children's choir director.
God's Potential, ACJC's Children's Choir
Before the year was out, I became an unofficial mentor to two girls in the choir. The eldest of the two (RH, age 10) is standing in the back row and wearing a blue-green dress in the above photo. They were good girls, and we somehow ended up hanging out together on a regular basis. I'd take them places, have them over to my house, and be a role model just by being myself. I was very aware of my influence on them, though, so I always had my eyes open for teaching moments.
When I finished my master's degree in 1998, I took her and her sister with me to Sears for my graduation portraits. I don't normally do things to call attention to myself, but that time I donned my academic regalia at the car and walked through the parking lot and mall with them to the portrait studio, so they could observe people's reactions to me in my cap, gown, and hood. Then I took them with me to the engineering school convocation on the campus of Syracuse University, where they would see me cross the stage and hear my name called. Neither had been to a college campus before, and at that age they hadn't given any thought to college. We had an intense talk about how much college costs (they were appalled) and why it was important to do well in school, so one could get scholarships to pay for it. RH didn't say much, but I could tell I had planted a seed.
Yesterday I was one of the proud onlookers at commencement on the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, where RH received her B.S. in General Psychology (with a minor in Art Therapy).
RH (right) with her Mom
She worked full time in her field and earned scholarships to pay her own way through undergrad. Come spring of next year, she intends to begin graduate school, though she hasn't yet decided if she wants to pursue social work or therapy. (By the way, iswari
, she was very
impressed when I told her about you receiving your Ph.D.)
To say I am humbled to know I had a hand in this young woman's development would be an understatement. She is a focused, humble person who hangs out with good people. At the tender age of 24, she already is making a difference in others' lives through her work. I am tremendously proud of her.