I graduated from college with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Psychology in 1996.
I would like to take this moment to stress how unimpressive this is - especially if you are my parents or a potential employer. All it really means is that if you want to ask me in what ways Karl Marx was not a comedian, I can tell you. Otherwise, my degree does not strike hard and fast in arming me with employable skills.
Of course, before I was a social science major, I was a math major which, if I had continued down that path, would have left me precisely in the same unemployable boat at the bachelor level, not to mention it would have put our dysfunctional little family in the most awkward position of having to explain two mathematicians in the family (which is probably one too many). But I digress.
I left college in debt, with few employable skills, and bill collectors breathing heavily down my neck. So I did what any self-respecting college grad without a barrel o' monkey laughing skills would do...I got two roommates and a job at an elementary school in a large, urban, public school district as a secretary.
And when I say "secretary", I mean I was the secretary, nurse, psychologist, social worker, nurse, nurse, nurse, mommy, and disciplinarian to 600+ squirming, screaming, children 180 days a year for five years. Don't believe that's what I did? The district, through some archaic means of monetary distribution decided we could have 3 days a week of educated support staff. This meant we could have a nurse 3 days a week, OR a social worker 3 days a week, OR a psychologist 3 days a week, OR some combination of the 3 that equaled 3 days of educated support staff pay a week.
The school served regular neighborhood children of course. However, it was also a center placement school in our quadrant for severely emotionally disturbed children, a center placement school for severely mentally and physically challenged children, and a center placement for the self-contained highly gifted program. Additionally, our neighborhood was chock full of apartment buildings and complexes with which the Ecumenical Society had worked out several arrangements to house refugees from war-torn countries. Our English as a Second Language population included children from 84 different countries - many of them who'd never been to school and knew nothing outside of extreme poverty and fighting - speaking more than 20 languages.
I took home $10,000 a year.
For five years, I wrote late passes day after day for children whose parents couldn't manage to ever get their child to school on time, I held children throwing full on temper tantrums - who occasionally hit and bit - as we waited for a parent or guardian to come remove them from the premises, I waited patiently for late parents and sometimes the police to come escort an abandoned child home long after I was due to leave, I took alarming temperature readings of children with the flu whose parents couldn't or wouldn't take a day off work to care for their child, sending them to me instead to place ice packs on their foreheads, their necks, trying, sometimes in vain, to bring those fevers down. I was thrown up on, spit on, cursed out by parents and children alike when district policy dictated something they didn't agree with. I held the hands of children whose knees were dislocated, arms broken, keeping them lucid with jokes and songs until paramedics could arrive. I comforted those who came to school bruised from beatings and paid for lunches out of my own meager pockets for those who came to school lethargic from malnutrition.
For five years, I was a minimum wage earning angel.
And I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Contrary to popular belief, I absolutely love kids. I just don't need any of my own. Frankly, mostly because I took care of other people's kids day in and day out for five very long years. Still...I loved it. I love them.
But I couldn't afford it.
Eventually, I was given a great opportunity to move out of the elementary school and into the district's technology department. My aptitude for technology in conjunction with my exceptional people skills landed me a job with the client support team. And I jumped at the chance to make more money while expanding my technical skills.
In the first two years with DoTS, I took home more than I had during the entire five years I worked at the elementary school. My last year on the team, I made more than all of my previous school years' experience combined.
I look back on that time in my life and I am A) grateful that I was able to get a job that would teach me what I needed to know to do what I do now in an environment I adored but also B) angry that the support staff - the secretaries, bus drivers, bus monitors, janitors, lunch ladies, paraprofessionals - of every single school district in the United States take back seats to the teacher's unions when negotiating pay.
Those people who take care of the basic necessities, safety and, most importantly, care FOR the safety and nurturing of children are not rewarded. They are penalized both in pay and in respect by their employers and their charges.
Last night, I'm sitting about surfing the intertube, minding my own business, when a post from a friend on G+ crosses my path...
A post about Karen Huff Klein, an elderly bus monitor in New York state, whose torment and bullying by several middle school children was filmed and posted to YouTube for all to see and to laugh at as she began to cry.
Caveat: I can't watch this entire video. I only needed 30 seconds before I, myself, started to cry.
But my friend's post wasn't really about the video.
It was about this IndieGoGo campaign - a type of crowd source funding (like kickstarter) - started by a stranger just yesterday asking people to give in hopes of sending Karen on the vacation of a lifetime in exchange for what she'd endured from these so-called children (I call them shitsnacking monsters).
The campaign organizer asked for a mere $5,000.
At the time of this writing, the campaign has raised over $400,000. In less than 36 hours. Every penny (less what IndieGoGo and the government take) of which will go to Karen.
And I'm going to cry again.
Not because I'm angry. Not because I'm sad. Not because I want to shake my fist at the unfairness of the world.
But because Karen - someone who has dedicated her life to the safety and well-being of children not her own - is being provided for in the last years of her life by tens of thousands of strangers who saw her story and said to themselves, "WHOA! That ain't RIGHT!"
All because ONE stranger said, "WHOA! That ain't RIGHT! Let me try to do something about it."
It just goes to show...
One person may not be able to change the world. BUT! With a sense of justice and compassion and a willingness to put it out there for others to see, one might just be able to change the entire life of another human being.
A human being who doesn't deserve to cry at the hands of 12-year-old boys.
I donated. Will you?