“Chris” gets up early for school like any other kid. If he’s lucky he’ll grab a sugary breakfast on his way out the door. He’s excited to see his friends, but a little apprehensive about facing his teacher. He didn’t understand his math assignment, but as his mom works late, she couldn’t help him. She doesn’t understand the stuff anyways.
On his way to school, Chris crosses the street even though it’s out of his way, because the kids sitting on the corner are part of a local gang, and he doesn’t want any trouble. He gets to class on time and sits in his chair. His mind wanders as his teacher talks, thinking about his dad, who’s in prison for beating his mom. He misses him.
During lunch there’s a hushed buzz around school as his friends discuss a former classmate, Johnny. Johnny was walking to the store yesterday when he a bullet caught him in the back. He didn’t make it. Johnny was in two of his classes. He also wasn’t Chris’ first friend to die prematurely.
Chris is starting to understand math a little more. He stays after school to get extra help, but it’s only an hour, and there are so many students and so few tutors. He’s really smart and just needs a little help, but finding motivation is difficult. His classmates are in the same boat as him. Their parents work late, many never graduated from high school, had children young, and either live off welfare or a minimum-wage job.
As Chris heads home, he ducks his head low. It’s not quite spring yet, so it gets dark early. The worst times to be alone on the street are after dark and summer. He’s hungry, but his mom doesn’t cook until she gets off work at ten. Maybe there’ll be some chips in the cupboard.
The doorman nods at Chris as he lets him in the building. Chris keeps his eyes down as he doesn’t want to interrupt any drug deals going on in his building. He lets himself in his room and gets right to his homework, as he is a good kid. He hears gunshots outside, and exhales softly, glad he didn’t hang out at the store today. Payday isn’t until tomorrow, so his mom didn’t have extra cash anyway.
Chris is hungry so he takes a snack break. There are some Flaming Hot Cheetos in the cupboard, so he munches as he wrestles with math, enjoying the quiet even though it’s a little lonely. When he’s done he texts his friends and plays video games.
His mom comes home a little after ten, and starts yelling at him immediately, despite his assurances that he did his homework. “Why are your grades so bad, then? Are you just dumb?” She hopes her verbal tirade will motivate him to do better, so he can have a better life than hers.
But Chris needs more than motivation. Chris needs homework help. Chris needs a mentor. Chris needs a safe place to hang out after school. He needs nutritious snacks. Chris needs an after school program! Unfortunately, so do all the other kids in the neighborhood! There are a few programs, but just so many kids.
Starfish Learning Center is one of these programs. Starfish has been supporting at-risk youth in the inner city of Chicago for twenty years! But Starfish needs people with a passion for helping kids, people like you who can really change the future of these youth. Starfish needs to grow our program so we can include more youth, but we need volunteers, and we need financial support! If you’re able to partner with us financially, even a small donation can make a difference! Donate here. If you’re local to the Chicago area and you want to volunteer, visit our website at starfishchicago.org, or contact us here. Together we can change the future of today’s youth!