The First Day

April 27, 2010
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“Go sit down, sweetie.” I swallowed, hoping little Rajabu would listen to me. Instead he just stared at me as if I told him I was a ghost. Confused as I was, I just repeated myself, “Please go sit down.” It was then when my sister walked up to me and stated “Michaela, they don’t speak English.”
I was eleven years old when I first started coming to OWL (Opening the World through Literature). This program allows refugees in major help of catching up in school, to have after school tutoring time. Most of these kids went through many depressing events back in Africa that scarred them for life. OWL helps them get away from those thoughts and focus on education.


***

“Alright, snack time is over.” Mrs. D, the creator of OWL announced. I saw about fifteen children stand up to throw away their trash. The other ten sat in their small wooden chairs confused unaware of what had just been said. At that moment, Mrs. D looked at the children sitting and pointed to the trash cans. Some understood what she meant, but for the others, I had to throw the trash away for them.

As homework time began, I was told to work with a 5th grade girl named Sandrine who had just moved from Rwanda, Africa. Sandrine was the oldest of six kids so things were pretty rough for her. Usually when you work with a 5th grader on homework, you expect to see fractions and persuasive writing. But considering Sandrine had just moved to America knowing no English, we worked on the alphabet. I felt so bad trying to teach her the alphabet because even though she may have been very confused on what was going on, I could tell that she knew how far behind she really was. After I wrote down the ABC’s for her to copy, Mrs. D asked me to work with another child.
Anthony was in Kindergarten and had been in America much longer than Sandrine had but he still had some catching up to do. He was so shy that my normal tone might have scared him. I was almost frightened. I really wanted to be a remarkable part in helping these kids through their tough times in life. That seemed difficult to do when working with a child like Anthony. He didn’t talk much, and when he did, it was when he answered my questions on his homework. Time seemed to go by slow when we were working and I knew I had to do something about that.

“So, Anthony, do you play any sports?” I asked.

“I play basketball.” He answered
“Oh, cool. Do you play for a team?”
“No, just outside with my brothers.”
“That’s fun. I bet you want to be just like Michael Jordan.” He was wearing a Bulls Jersey that looked like it could fit Michael Jordan. As soon as I asked that question, I knew I hit a bull’s eye. Anthony smiled and I could see the place where is two front teeth would be growing in soon. He went on about basketball and how much he loved the sport. I’m sure he was exaggerating when the 3-foot boy said he had dunked once before. None of that mattered though because I had just embarked an experience that could never be replaced.


Recess came and all the kids ran out. Anthony stayed behind and helped me clean up the marker stains on the tables and push in the chairs. Once we finished, he held my hand as we walked outside. The kids were ecstatic to be outdoors. They played kickball, basketball and tag. Even the little girls participated. The children ran around as if they were running for the ice cream man. As time passed, the kids had to line up to go home. Anthony walked up to me and said, “Bye, Michaela,” and hugged me tightly.

It’s been four years since I started OWL and I do not regret one moment of it. I love these kids and want to be with them for as long as possible. Every living second I spend with them makes me feel blessed and content. I know for a fact, that I will never ever forget my first day when I saw the shining smile on Anthony’s face.





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