Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s 2017—well Chinese New Year isn’t until later this month, but alas the world revolves around the Western calendar. This means it’s tax season, which means I have to look at my financials—the dread! This also means I graduated high school 10 years ago, but high school reunions don’t have the same allure as they used to especially in this social media age. Last but absolutely at the top of my list, this means I need to figure out and make plans for what follows my term of service. Another year of service? Jump back into the workforce doing X, Y, Z, followed by A through W? Use my education award to go back to school? I feel as though I have too many options which makes it all the more difficult to pin down what I see myself doing in the next year. All I know for now is that I would like to make New Orleans my home for at least another year beyond my term of service.
Yesterday, I spent a full day in the YES! office at the Main Library. “What’s so special about that?” you may ask. Well, it’s the first time I’ve sat at my own desk ever since construction started at the library months ago. It didn’t take long to settle in because later in the day, I found myself listening in on a conversation similar to one that occurred right around when I first started at YES! (which was about six months ago. Time flies!). I was reminded of the compassion and care that YES! staff shows to anyone who walks through our doors.
First off, the staff here are by no means social workers, but when a student’s path to success is hindered by something that we can potentially alleviate, then we will do what we can to accommodate those needs (within reason and as long as it isn’t long-term) and, if necessary, guide our students toward the appropriate resources. One example of going above and beyond is when Shannan, the Director of YES! and my supervisor, offers rides to our students who are ready to take the HiSET (high school diploma equivalency) test. This is one less thing that the student must stress over because who hasn’t had the dream or actual nightmare of missing a midterm, the GRE, the Bar Exam, and so forth.
On the other hand, there are the walk-ins interested in our program who are determined to be enrolled, but show obvious behavioral and/or hygienic signs that their immediate and most basic needs have not been met or are highly unstable. Since the majority of these things such as housing/shelter or professional mental health help are not within our scope or capabilities, we have the hard task of letting these people know that there are x number of steps they must take before we can even consider enrolling them into our program. These are the times I have witnessed my supervisor, Shannan, engaging and speaking candidly with quirky and complete strangers who are often in search of someone to just listen to them. From the strong rapport that she builds, Shannan tactfully and politely redirects these individuals to the critical resources that they need more urgently while encouraging them to check back in with us when their situation is stable. So often are individuals in crisis ignored or approached inappropriately that an escalated and undesirable situation is inevitable. It really comes down to good customer service!
Every day at YES!, I am reminded that there is still humanity and hope in this world and, for that, I am proud to work for an awesome program with the best people possible.