My former student D is eighteen now. He called me a week ago to tell me many things, all of them troubling:
1. He was just released from prison.
2. He has a four-month-old son who's in foster care.
3. He currently owns only three articles of clothing.
4. He wants to go back to school and graduate, but it would be too embarrassing (see #3).
5. He really wants a job to the point that he's harrassing people, but no one will hire him.
His last words at the end of the call - "Mrs. Rigsbee, can you help me?"
I wrote about some of D's troubles two years ago. Whenever I see him or talk to him, I cry. It's so sad to witness the stereotype of the young, smart kid growing up in poverty and heading in the wrong direction. I cry because I always thought if I cared enough, if I encouraged him enough, he would beat the odds.
And I cry because I don't know what to do to help him now. But this time I start by doing a Google search - I find that he was arrested in April for armed robbery. Later I learn that he was there but had no weapon; two others actually carried out the crime. D was convicted of "accessory after the fact."
Next I do a Department of Corrections Offender search. There's his name, just like it used to sit in my grade book, on his rarely turned in papers, and on the suspension list. I now know his DOC number, his age, his offense, and the fact that he's out of prison...on parole.
That leads me to my next step. I call my county's parole office and find the name of the officer I need in seconds. He returns my call within an hour.
When I have health issues, I pride myself on being educated on what may or may not be going on with my body. I do research to the point that I feel confident that I can converse with a medical doctor to communicate what I need. Not so much with a parole officer.
I call D's phone, but it's turned off. I go through my phone frantically and find the number he used when he called me last week. I have no idea whose phone I'm calling, and I'm terrified. A girl answers. I tell her who I am and what I want. She mumbles, barely audible, "Hold on." Another girl comes to the phone. Same scenario.
Finally, "Mrs. Rigsbee?" I talk, words tumbling out of my mouth one after another - "turn yourself in"..."do the right thing"..."I'll help you through this...."
He says, "You don't know how they do. They lie."
I say, "Don't talk without a lawyer. You have a right to have a lawyer present." (I shake my head at the phone. Since when am I Kate Beckett on Castle?)
I continue, "D, you've hit rock bottom. You have two ways you can go. You can make something of your life, or you can go to jail. What's it gonna be?"
One thing he wants me to know: "Mrs. Rigsbee," he says quietly. "About my armed robbery conviction...you know I could never hurt anybody, right?"
"I know, D," I answer, choking on tears again. We hang up so D can make his call. Soon he calls me back to tell me he's going to turn himself in.
And now I wait. I wait for the ending to this movie I'm in. Years ago, I signed up to teach middle school kids, and now I'm the one getting "schooled" on life. I tell D I don't know anything about this world he lives in...all I know about what he's into is what I've seen on tv. He turns his face away from the phone and yells, "Hey, Mrs. Rigsbee thinks my life is a movie!"
Yea, D, and I just pray for a happy ending.