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Thursday, June 05, 2008

One Up, One Down

Down first. That's Dawn. I went to her exhibition today. She scraped it together at the last minute and it was terrible. There were some good parts--I really liked the photos she took at her job and she did a pretty good job of explaining what she is doing there.

Unfortunately, she did not even integrate her classwork on propaganda into her job doing banners for advertising, which was in her research proposal from back in April. She remembered some of what had happened in class and made some effort to connect it, but it wasn't very thoughtful. She had no learning goals document for people and no clear idea of how to connect the skills she wanted to work on with the work she is doing.

Back in April I knew I would have to call her a lot if her project was going to happen. I called some, but we didn't connect much, and she didn't call me. And I was busy, and sick this last do-or-die week. Last night, after the scary incident, I was still awake at midnight and there was noise on the street. I called 911 and the dispatcher, surprised, said that cars had already been sent this way. Then I called Dawn. She was not at home and told me flat out she wasn't coming home. The night before her exhibition. I begged her to contact her mother to ensure the gate was locked, and explained why. She was afraid for me and said she'd try to reach her mother, though her mom's cell phone isn't working well.

Her new advisor tried to be very generous about her presentation, pointing out the good parts and looking for ways to connect what she was doing to her goals. Alfredo was more critical but pretty quiet and not too hard. It was my turn to be the hardass. "You were doing better exhibitions your freshman year," I told her. Then I started crying and said, "I'm going to say this in front of everyone. I called you last night at midnight and you were out somewhere. You're not doing what you need to do to stay in school. Do you want to come back next year? If you don't, I won't push you to come back any more."

Dawn started crying. Alfredo took it from there and told her if she wants to come back next year, they will be happy to have her. But it is on her to decide what she wants to do and to put forth a serious level of effort.

Dawn says she wants to come back in the fall.

We talked afterwards and I asked her to do two things--talk to her counselor about her credits and figure out a recovery plan, and make one commitment to doing something for her mind this summer on top of working her full-time job. "Read one book," I said. "That's enough."

I left and walked around two or three blocks before coming home, partly because I saw some guys I didn't recognize across the street in front of my house and I was afraid they might be the same guys as yesterday, partly because I was upset and just wanted to walk it out.

Finally I walked up from the southern end of my block and saw Meg on her front stoop, playing with her next-door neighbor's toddler. I said hi and she gave me a big smile.

"I have good news," she told me.

"Are you in at Lozano?"

Almost, is the answer. She called them, found out what she needed, went to Richards and got her transcript. She needs one thing from Chavez or from a teacher there--not sure exactly--and she'll get it tomorrow and go on Monday to register. She gave me a big smile and we shook hands.

I asked to see her Richards transcript and she let me. She only failed two classes. Her GPA was about a 2.2 and she was in the top 20 percent of her class when she quit school. "My teacher [from Chavez] said I wasn't doing too bad," she said.

"You weren't," I agreed. "That's actually pretty good."

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