I went to a wonderful banquet Friday night to honor one of my former students, who I'll call the Eyeliner Queen (obviously, she wears a lot of eyeliner). The banquet was presented by a county mayors' group, which honors students who have made a positive impact on the lives of those around them or have overcome adversity in some way. This was the second round of the award; the first round is done by city, and everyone who has been nominated receives the award, but the second round narrows considerably.
My school had originally nominated around 30 kids for the award; there's no reason not to nominate a lot, and for many of our students, this may be one of the only times in their academic careers that they'll be recognized for something positive (which is something else I take huge issue with, but that's for another time). Of those 30, two of ours made it to the county level.
The Eyeliner Queen was one of those recognized for having overcome adversity in her life. Without going into too many details, she was removed from her birth parents because of drug abuse (her mother later OD'd and her father has vanished). She was adopted into another family, a situation which presents some additional challenges including past physical abuse and potentially current emotional and verbal abuse. She's a good kid, but a bit of a mess, and I mentor her to try to help her stay focused on the future and positive parts of her life rather than the hell that she's been through.
The banquet was lovely. A seated dinner in a local country club; entertainment by a neighborhood high school; an inspiring keynote speaker; each student individually receiving their award after a paragraph about their struggles was read; photos with mayors and city council members; gift baskets including a sweatshirt, free passes to an amusement part, candy, and a plaque; drawings for more prizes; a really nice evening for a lot of kids who don't always have a lot of those. As I sat there, applauding for each winner and listening to their stories, seeing the shy pride mingled with embarrassment as they stood in front of the group, I thought how nice it would have been if the Eyeliner Queen had been there.
Because she wasn't.
Her mother wouldn't let her go. She'd been sick, and her mother thought it was a bad idea. I'd called three times earlier that week about it, and three times day of, trying to persuade mom to agree, and got nowhere. Mom insisted that the Eyeliner Queen was tired, didn't feel better, wanted to stay home, was asleep - every time I called, I got a new excuse or two as to why they wouldn't be there.
Every time, I talked about what an honor it was, how nice it would be for the Eyeliner Queen, how much I thought the family would enjoy it, how they could leave early if they needed. We'd talked about transportation and found options; we'd talked about if younger siblings needed childcare and found options. And nothing.
The Eyeliner Queen has struggled this year. She consistently passes only 4 of her 7 classes, and three of the ones she fails are academic content classes. Her attendance is spotty, and her attitude is shaky, and I don't blame her for any of it. Because with a family that doesn't just not support you but actively works against you.....how does a seventh grader overcome that?
When we're back from spring break, I'll buy her lunch, and give her the gift basket, and try to recreate the night for her verbally at least. But it won't be the same. And that breaks my heart.