My newest student was 17 years old and in 8th grade. Let that sentence sink in for a moment and feel the impact of what this student’s experience must have been like for him. Needless to say, the challenges he faced were massive and the support available to him very limited. Pipeline to prison was a phrase that seemed to follow him. But there was one day that I found a place of vulnerability, space where I could offer a safe place for this student to land.
How this student came to our school in the middle of the year with little known about his past was one issue. Being 17 years old, over 6 feet tall with a huge tattoo covering the side of his neck and in 8th grade was a more pressing issue. He was quiet, a loner, intimidating, but he was still a student, a child/young man, who seemed lost and uncertain about what to do and who to trust.
I noticed that this student rode his bike to school every day, regardless of the weather. One, very rainy day, I ran into him in the hallway, where he was storing his bike. He was soaked to the bone, dripping wet from the late fall rain storm. I quietly asked him if I could dry his clothes for him. He looked completely shocked, even stunned that I offered to help him. He said, “you would do that for me?”. I reassured him that it was my pleasure to make sure he had dry clothes and gave him kudos for getting to school by bike on such a miserable day.
While his clothes dried, he was wrapped in a blanket sitting on the cot in my office. I had no clothes that would even remotely fit him, so the blanket offered warmth and comfort while he waited. We talked for the entire hour his clothes were drying. He opened up and shared his story, one that I will never forget. This young man got caught up in a drug raid, his father was the target, but he was also swept up in the legal system along the way. He spent quite a few years living in a detention center, which is why his school history was truncated.
An hour passed very quickly for both of us, miraculously, my office was not inundated with students until the dryer buzzed and my student was warm, dry, and ready to learn. I learned the true meaning of resilience that day. That is also the day that I became a Relentless School Nurse.