Thursday, October 12, 2006


I happened to be up at Fortress Youth Development Center today when one of my favorite kids walked in.

It was 12 o'clock in the afternoon. He should've been at school.

We have a hard and fast rule at Fortress. Kids are only allowed to participate in our after school Literacy Lab if they've spent the day at school. Truants and skippers aren't welcome; you must earn your admittance to Fortress Literacy Center by demonstrating dependability, commitment and an honest work ethic.

So when Diondre walked through the doors today, we were surprised. He never misses school. Diondre is one of our most conscientious kids. He's honest and dependable and is growing into a leadership role among his peers.

Turns out, he had TRIED to go to school. His morning got off to a bad start when he woke late and missed the bus. So he set off walking. He walked and walked and walked, a long way. He arrived at his high school after the 2nd period attendance had already been taken. Because of that, he was turned away at the door and refused admittance to the school.

So he turned around and walked again. And walked. And walked. And walked even further and landed at the doors of Fortress.

Here's the deal. Since Diondre wasn't in his seat in 2nd period, the state didn't have to pay a nickel for his attendance. And because of that, the school decided it didn't have to mess with him for the rest of the day. That's just wrong. WRONG. They'd have let him in with a tardy excuse, but guess what? Diondre doesn't have a Mom who will write him one. He has a Mom. Just not a Mom who cares enough.

He wanted to attend school today. He wanted it badly enough to walk miles and miles for it. When he finally arrived at Fortress, he was beaten down. His school doesn't care about education. It cares about education dollars. And that made me mad today.

Sometimes, even the best-placed rules need to be broken. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that warrant special consideration. Sometimes, there's a bigger picture that we ought to step back and take a look at.

Today, the bigger picture was that Diondre did the best he could. He's not chronically tardy. He's one of the GOOD kids. You'd think an inner city school that struggles to FIND good kids would bend over backwards to hang on to the ones they've got.

Thank God for Fortress. When Diondre had nowhere to go, he came there. There were untold attractions and deceptions and temptations along the way. Seriously. I dare YOU to walk the streets that he walked today. But he kept his eye on Fortress, and showed up at our door. That's why we're there. I feel blessed to have witnessed that today.



tosin said...

Diondre learned a valuable lesson today about love, acceptance, and determination. A lesson he never would have learned inside the confines of a school that doesn't care.
God bless Fortress.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you guys, I second Tosin comment.
and God Bless you for bending the rules, when the school wouldn't

Kris in TX said...

Hugs and kudos to Diondre, from a mom who cares...about her own kids and others. What a wonderful man he will grow into one day! And a fine example of what God can do.

Kris in TX

Cara said...

Just to add to the amazing tale of a dedicated young man......he then came to my house and moved 2 palets(sp?) of paving stones to the back yard. He never complained, denied my offers of something to drink and didn't flinch when it was time to leave and go to the Literacy center for the after-school program!!

Martha in CA said...

Yay for Diondre for not giving up today! He made great choices all morning long!

Thankfully, his Fortress family did not (and will not) let him down. Ever.

That is HUGE!

Nancy D. said...

Tell Diondre that a middle aged white woman in California was impressed with him today.

Cause her lazy ass kid just called for a ride home.....

Anonymous said...

I had tears in my eyes as I got to the bottom of the post. God Bless Fortress. THey are just what is needed and I am so grateful that the kids know that is the place to go. Diondre will go so far in the this world based on his heart, determination and love of Christ.

Diondre, you are amazing! MAy you always have the love of life that you have.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Diondre had somewhere to go. As a juvenile probation officer, I see a lot of my kids quit trying because the school (and their parents) don't care if they're there or not. As a matter of fact, you're right when you say they are glad to have a day when they don't have to put up with them. Keep up the good work. These kids need ya'll.
- Tara