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.