Slow Learner

Mentor, guide, shepherd of the flock, or at least shepherd to one little ewe. My motivation is clear. In the interview for the mentoring program, the counselor asks 14-year-old Daisy what she wants out of the program. A friend, Daisy says. I hear but don't hear. I charge forward. You'll be the first in your family to attend college. This is worth a five-year commitment on my part. 

Museums, hikes, plays when she says she wants to act, sessions with my former-cheerleader Pilates teacher when says she might like cheerleading. Daisy's never heard of Pilates. She decides she doesn't want to try out for cheerleading. Too much competition. 

School is tough, but the program says don't expect to get an A student, that's not who needs a mentor. I help Daisy with English and math, get her notebooks and backpack organized. Try to suppress my shock when the public school doesn't let her take home textbooks, only xeroxed sheets. 

Ninth grade I learn she doesn't know how to type. No problem, the school offers a class. It's boring. Keep going, it'll get easier. Tenth grade I learn she doesn't know how to use a computer. It's a required class, no? They'll teach you. Yes, but she fails the class. Don't worry, you'll take it again next year. Eleventh grade she gets into Advanced English. We celebrate. She says she loves to write. A month later she's dropped out because it's too intimidating. Too many magnet kids and they're all white. I learn Hispanic is not white.

Spring semester of eleventh grade I learn she doesn't know how to create a bibliography or write a basic research paper. I help her write about Joan of Arc. We're both thrilled when she gets a B. The next week she gets a job at the local drugstore. I'm devastated. Do you need the money? When are you going to do your homework? My cousin works there, she says. 

She agrees to try community college and I help her get settled in a program that focuses on Latino kids. She's skeptical at first then decides she likes it. She meets a boy. She's happy. 

I struggle to understand my disappointment. It's a good thing this mentoring program requires a five-year commitment. I'm a slow learner.


Phoenix, AZ

 Lynda Levy is a retired psychologist and life coach. After almost 40 years living in Los Angeles she moved to Phoenix to be closer to family and is now adjusting to life in the desert where it turns out all kinds of things grow, including creativity.