13 September 2022

The perks of working in my industry

I have worked in industries ranging from banks to supply chains to identity fraud solutions to geospatial. But the current one – education – is probably the most mission oriented. I can see every day how we make a difference to kids.

And that gives rise to some interesting intersection points on the road. Take today for example. I had flown into Chicago, taken the train to downtown and started individual meetings. Coffee with Demetre, drinks with Nurzhan and then dinner with Lela.

Lela was already at the dinner table when I showed up a bit late. For all that patience she had shown, the first thing I did was made her get up from the table and move to the bar area. For some reason, when it comes to drinks or dinner, I prefer the high chairs.

I am so glad I did it though. We had barely settled down when one of the restaurant employees – a young lady – came up to us excitedly and looking at Lela, exclaimed “Miss Day?” Lela immediately recognized her.

As a background, Lela was with TFA (Teach For America) before she joined us. TFA teachers tend to work with inner city schools frequently in the poorest and most violent parts of the city offering lessons to kids who often tend to be troubled . Lela worked in such a school in Chicago before joining us. She was very clear that she was not going to take me there after sunset – it gets so unsafe.

Well, as it turns out, the young lady – Keisha – went to the same school. In fact, her younger sister was in Lela’s class. They recognized each other immediately.

I was totally intrigued by their conversations. Keisha was talking about her troubled childhood.

“How old are you?”, I asked her
“Oh! I have a daughter one year elder to you. I heard your conversation. Were you really troubled?”
“Oh! yes. I used to throw books at my teachers!”
“How about now?”, I teased her
“Well, I have settled down now. It is a little late now but now I understand how teachers like Miss Day made all the difference to kids like me.”

Keisha told me part of her life story. Puerto Rican by descent, she grew up like many other inner city kids with access to very little. She had her first baby when she was 19 and second one when she was 21. But she has a steady income now from the restaurant and is rebuilding her life.

To my usual “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, she felt she needed a little more time to think that thru.

She thanked Lela again and left us to our dinner. I could not help wonder what kind of environment Lela and other TFA teachers have to teach in. And my respect for them redoubled for doing what they do. And making a real difference in the world. To the young kids that need it the most.

Posted September 13, 2022 by Rajib Roy in category "Intersection Points

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.