A friend of mine from college recently invited me to join a Facebook Group for First Day NY, a program that looks for volunteers to sponsor New York City children for their first day of school. I signed up immediately and today received some information about the child I'll be sponsoring. She's 14 years old (and I assume heading into 9th grade), wants to be a nurse, and loves language arts. My mission is to get her a backpack, a first day of school outfit, and an age-appropriate book based on her interests.
It's been so long since I thought about the first day of 9th grade. I started high school that year and I remember being so nervous. All my same friends from middle school went with me since my town only had one set of schools. There were kids who were so much bigger and smarter than me. They played sports and ran clubs. How would I find my classrooms? Would boys like me? And the dreaded cafeteria, every 14 year old girl's nightmare. The movie Mean Girls comes to mind.
The other piece of my mission for the child I'm sponsoring is to write a note of encouragement. "We would like your child to know someone out there cares about their success...with this note you can offer a window into the world of opportunity that awaits them if they always do their best and stay in school." I'm not ashamed to say I teared up a little upon reading this instruction from First Day NY. This is more than just a backpack and some clothes for a 14 year old; it's a signal to her that there are people out here cheering her on, people who believe in her potential.
As I think back, 9th grade is the time when I realized that if I worked really hard, I could go anywhere and do anything. That year opened up a new gateway to the whole rest of my life, and how I thought about my purpose in the world. And now I think I have the beginning to my note of encouragement...
If you'd like to get involved with First Day NY, please visit their website: http://www.firstdayny.org/