When I finished my MBA, a bunch of us were worried about how we’d fill our time. My friend Cindy and I took a cooking class (you know how that turned out). A few of us also signed up for the Promising Pals program at the in Roxbury. The Promising Pal program brings together middle schoolers with adults in the community. We write a few letters back and forth during the school year, read the same book, and attend the Promising Pals breakfast where we get to meet our pals. This is actually my second year as a pal. Last year, the Promising Pals breakfast was the day before my wedding, so it was pretty much a blur.
My pal this year was an eighth grader. He was born in Puerto Rico, but his family moved here so he could get a better education. His long-term goal is to become a doctor. Or maybe work at Google. (I think those two might be mutually exclusive, but what do I know.) I was excited to be paired with him because he’s got so much going for him. I actually felt dumb writing to him. Really the only thing I had going for me is that English is my first language. I’m pretty out of touch with what’s cool in the eighth grade. It’s funny when a fourteen year old boy asks you what you like to do in your spare time. Um, I like to cook and do yoga. Not a lot in common there. But we made it through ok.
The Pal Breakfast is a challenge. Middle school starts early! We were treated to a performance by the school’s new harp ensemble and a few speeches, including Mayor Menino, who of course is a Pal himself. The energy at the school is infectious. The teachers there (all snappy dressers, by the way) are way cooler than any of the middle school teachers I had. They interact so well with the students. The students are all polite and there’s a pretty deep attitude of respect. Promising Pal Breakfast day is a special day at the school; it’s a half day, they get to wear regular clothes as opposed to their uniforms. I’m sure they have their issues, but you’d never know it on Pal day!
After the presentation, the adults are sent to pick their Pals up in homeroom. This is when I found out that my Pal was sick! I was so heartbroken to not get to meet my buddy! I ended up adopting another kid with a deadbeat Pal. (Honestly, I don’t get it. We’re told when the breakfast is before we commit. It’s not hard to write a one page letter and read a short book.) We went to breakfast and had our picture taken. Then he brought me to meet one of his teachers. Then we saw some Flamenco dancers and a Michael Jackson impersonator (that I think was actually a student). After that, he kicked my ass at checkers, I taught him the trick to always winning tic-tac-toe and then we had a very intense game of Jenga. We even stayed after dismissal so we could finish it. I had a good day, even though I really wanted to meet my Pal. I hope to get another letter from him before school gets out.
When I was driving in at the crack of dawn, I was thinking that I should not sign up for the Promising Pal program next year, but now that breakfast is over, I realize that I can’t quit being a Pal. See you next year Timilty!