I don’t know if it was that I am just so tired right now, or if these kids had really gotten to me despite the fact that I rarely get the time I’d like with them. But last night as I was making my comments and listening to some great thoughts of others on COSI’s stage, I was working hard to hold the tears back.
On COSI’s stage we held the first graduation of our MiracleGro Cap Scholars (MGCS) cohort. Four young men and women, three graduating early, were celebrated as they move on to college at an Ohio college or university (39 youth are slated for graduation next year). Rondale will be studying architecture. Civon will room with Rondale and major in Sports Management. Molly will attend community college with plans to transfer to a four-year university to study nursing. Diamond is moving on to study social sciences.
These youth have been with us continually, in some cases, since elementary school. The Scotts Company and Hagedorn family (major stockholders with Jim Hagedorn as CEO), led by Jim’s sister Sue’s passion envisioned this initiative and have provided great support, effort and commitment. Our COSI team, led by Tifani Kendrick who took this on fresh out of college and has grown immensely along with our teens, have worked hard to engage, challenge, and support the teens and their families. It has certainly been tough at times.
And over 80 percent of our full cohort of MGCS youth, all from Columbus City schools, will be first generation college attendees. These sharply dressed and well presented young men and women looked very different from the chaotic group I remember dropping in on during my first days at COSI four years ago. Many have faced life challenges that my children didn’t have to face. Many would have difficulty not just affording college (something Scotts and the Hagedorns have removed as a barrier), but even imagining themselves at college.
Yet there we were last night hearing about grade accomplishments, activity leadership (one was President of our Natl. Soc. Of Black Engineers Jr. Chapter), and the inspiration they have provided to others. (One mother shared how she is now going to college, inspired by her son’s efforts and commitment).
So maybe it was just the feelings I used to have as a teacher at graduation watching students move on to the next phase of life away from my influence– each with some hope I had attached to them emotionally. And as I shared with our MGCS teens last night, some of my students over 15 years of teaching went on to a variety of successes, including noted astronaut. But some star kids didn’t make it out of the next year without a drug arrest or make it out of the next week alive, dead from an accident while driving drunk from graduation celebrating.
So I had tears listening to our teens last night talk about their hopes, aspirations, and challenges overcome. But I wasn’t alone—it was a memorable evening at COSI last night for everyone there. I was particularly proud to be part of COSI last night and our commitment to making a difference.
By the way, if you want to know more about this program, go to http://www.cosi.org/educators/afterschool/