Upon walking into Higher Achievement’s classrooms my expectations were bashed. I expected to see organized orderly classes with children seated quietly listening intently ready to learn and being respectful to their mentors. Similarly to Victor’s assumption in Frankenstein, I thought this service would be interesting and something different I could do with my time, just like Vincent thought when constructing the Monster. What I actually saw was nothing of that sort. Wild children aging from 10-13 years old were frantically running around, wandering the hallways, and constantly being loud. They were difficult to control and keep engaged in the topic at hand. Immediately I just assumed that they were a rambunctious group of kids who had been sitting in school all-day and just don’t have the patience to learn anymore. I figured their parents worked late and they just stuck their child in some afterschool program to keep them busy. In Frankenstein the Monster was not what Victor predicted at all and he as well, jumped to false conclusions about the Monster just like I did with the children. After we broke up into our small groups my reasoning behind their bizarre behavior changed drastically.
I was given a group with three 7th grade girls who were 13-14 years old. Their eyes grew wide when I talked about Loyola as if they could not believe that college students existed and they wanted to hear all about it. One of the hidden reasons that I did not see at first for the children being there was to give them hope that with hard work they can be successful and find happiness. They clearly were not brought up in a household where college was always the goal, like I assumed because that is how my life was. Higher Achievement offers a place for the children to create goals for themselves and find their true interests and who they really are. Just like in One’s Self I Sing by Walt Whitman, the search for identity and individuality is present. This program definitely works to bring out each student’s special individual qualities.
We began our lesson by looking over a list of possible writing topics to get their minds going about what they could write about. One girl chose to write about the saddest moment of her life and shared with me the time when her 13-year-old friend from their school committed suicide. I was shocked that a child so young could be so angry and upset in his life that he saw the need to end it. It scared me because of what possibly could have been so bad in this boy’s life. Higher Achievement creates an open environment for the students to express themselves and help find a way to make sense of it all, especially of problems such as these. In Frankenstein the Monster struggles to find himself and make sense of who he is. He is confused and lost in this world where so many things are going on and passing him by and he cannot make sense of it. The Monster lives a similar life to these students. They are so young and naive to the world and something as severe as this death can turn their world upside down because they don’t know who to make sense of it. Talking things out with mentors and discovering answers to their questions and concerns helps these children, as it would have the Monster.
Many children acted out over the course of the time I was there and I immediately assumed it was for attention, they didn’t have any more patience and they were just being brats. They should have respect for one another and their elders like in I Sing the Body Electric, by Walt Whitman. They should not settle for being used or abused by anyone. The director segregated those who disrupted the group and put them in a “time out.” When I went over to that group they seemed like the nicest group of kids, not at all brats. They loved talking about their school and were curious about Loyola. It seemed as if they really only wanted someone to talk to, a friend that was close to their age. I may have been one of the youngest people working there with the kids and they seemed to realize that and wanted me to be their friend and talk with them. Similarly, all the Monster wants is a friend. Victor’s assumptions were wrong about him. He was not some evil mindless killing machine he just wanted a mate. These students were not wildly running around disrupting because they had no more patience, they just wanted a friend.
Overall my assumptions were very naive because I was not brought up in a poorer neighborhood where college was a dream not reality. I did not have a classmate that committed suicide either. These students have it harder off at age 13 then I do now at 18. They have been exposed to suicide and poverty to a closer extent than I have. My horizon was definitely broadened by this visit to Higher Achievement. I will no longer get annoyed and disruptive children wherever I go because I now know there is an underlying cause whether it be death, family issues, or abuse. The parents send their kids here not just because they work late but because they want to keep them and away from problems of the real world. The student who died, grew up too fast because he got caught up in problems that he shouldn’t have even been exposed to. The students should remain innocent and sheltered for as long as they can and Higher Achievement offers that opportunity.