There are few days that I felt as nervous as I did teaching my Junior Achievement class in the South Bronx. It was the first Friday of December 2008 and I received the day off from work to teach Economics to 7th graders at Middle School (MS) 223. This school is just down the street from St. Anne’s, the church featured in Jonathan Kozol’s books describing the Mott Haven neighborhood. Mott Haven is one of the most violent, drug addicted areas of this country. It is ground zero for the war on poverty.
In MS 223, I felt like I was making a difference to kids who needed role models but what struck me so suddenly was that those kids and teachers had a tremendous impact on me. 20 minutes away by subway from my safe, beautiful Upper West Side neighborhood I found a completely different New York. Many of the students I met that day have never been outside of their own neighborhood. They know that there is something more to the world than the South Bronx but they don’t know if they’ll ever get to see it save for watching it on TV. That one cold day in December changed the way that I looked at this city, and it changed the way I saw my life playing out.
I was thrilled to get an email at work today from Junior Achievement about an opportunity to teach Corporate Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at the High School of Economics and Finance. While not in the South Bronx, it’s a subject matter that is very dear to me because of my link to the nonprofit world. It’s steps away from my office building and for an hour a week for seven weeks this Spring, I will get to teach high school students about a subject that I am passionate about. It’s opportunities like this that really make a difference – as much to my life as to the lives of the children I’m teaching. It’s this sharing of knowledge, and the recognition in someone else’s eyes that something you just said clicked for them, that makes our days worthwhile.