Gangs are never the best way for students to find family, to find connections. There are almost always negative consequences attached. I begged Koolaid to get out. He did not need a gang. His response was that he could not. The only way out of the gang was the same way in. He would have to be jumped and that was not an option.
We worked so hard and my fear, my greatest fear was losing him to gang antics. We lived in a small town and some people wanted to discount the validity of local gangs but they were real…they were real.
Junior year was the year that I put Koolaid out of my class. He needed a new perspective and he needed to stand on his own two feet. It wasn’t easy but he needed it. It was like teaching my own biological son at this point and it was not what was best for him. To say that he was upset with me was an understatement but he understood my reasons and accepted it.
I felt as if I was fighting his gang for his success. They didn’t like me and I was not a fan of theirs either. I did my best not to focus on the gang as much. Instead, I focused on things that would make him a better person. Junior year was the year of the massive project in English that he had no plans on doing because it required reading a book and Koolaid didn’t read.
As a child, Koolaid was diagnosed with dyslexia and received support at school. Eventually that support ended and so did his desire to read. This explained a lot in terms of his work ethic in other classes. In addition, there was no book in the library that interested him enough to fight through reading it.
Technology was critical for his success. I ordered the book, The Pact, on purpose. I also purchased the audio version and downloaded it to an ipod nano for him. While he felt special that I would loan him an ipod, he felt embarrassed but that is how he read the book. Yes, I got a 17 year old kid to read! The book, The Pact, was about the friendship formed between three young men with similar backgrounds as his. In addition, they would go on to become doctors…his dream. This was my blatant attempt at showing him what life beyond a gang could be and it served its purpose. It made him think.
As a part of that project, Koolaid had to create a presentation. He was not a power point kid. I let him use my Animoto account. Below is his video.
I wish that I could say that this year ended without a hitch. His world changed. Our whole community changed with the murder of a gas station owner, a father to students in our school. While we would learn that this was not related to the entire gang, the act was completed by members of his gang…one of which I taught.
The end of junior year…