by Cristy McCrery, Former Program Operations Assistant
One hundred thirty kids were crammed inside a physical education classroom for dismissal. Because it was PTA night at Memminger all of our WINGS kids reported to this small room instead of the cafeteria.
All I remember hearing within my first month at WINGS was the sound of WINGSLeaders shouting, “10, 9, 8...” which was the countdown used to help us silence the kids (by the count of one all eyes and ears should be on their WINGSLeader). This particular day was extra wild at WINGS, and as I walked by a group of some of the oldest WINGS kids, I asked one of the fifth graders in the group to get quiet so we could dismiss. Under his breath I caught a disrespectful comment he made about my ethnicity. My eyes immediately filled with tears, and as I fought them back, I recited a line of the WINGS Creed to this particular boy: “step into my shoes and see what I am going through,” I said. “You wouldn’t like it if someone made fun of you because of your skin color.”
Needless to say, that was not a good day for me as a WINGSLeader. Six months into the school year I learned this particular boy was dismissed from WINGS because he continued to exhibit disruptive behavioral issues that we were having no success in turning around. That following fall, as a new school year began and thus a new year at WINGS ramped up, I was more than surprised to see that this same boy was not only back in WINGS, but he was in my nest of sixth grade boys.
This particular boy was given another chance to return, and the year started in a similar fashion to the way the year prior had for him at WINGS. He would shout out and throw temper tantrums when he got into trouble. But there was something I was noticing this year, and that was the fact that we were starting to form a bond unlike we’d seen him form with anyone from our program to that point.
Soon he was the first kid to arrive in my nest. He would constantly find a way to sit next to me, and sometimes he would lean on me. I not only had him in my nest, but I also had him in my Academic Center, and as the course of the WINGS year continued I noticed that he became more determined to complete homework.
Slowly a friendship and mutual respect grew between us. I doubt he remembers the disrespectful things he said to me my first year as a WINGSLeader, but I have him to thank for giving me the strength to go back to work my second year at WINGS, for helping to showing me that kids deserve as many chances as a person’s willing to give, for giving me laughs and challenges in my personal and professional life, and for illustrating to me every day that what we are teaching our kids works. Today he is a well-adjusted eighth grader who we’re proud to see staying the course and having fun along the way. He’s even taken to playing the trombone, and is a member of his school’s band!