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Career Day At Sanders-Clyde Elementary
4/16/2014 3:37:55 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I just got in from Career Day at Sanders-Clyde Elementary School. I’m so excited, I figured I need to write about it now, before I forget stuff.

Talking to those kids was a trip. Barney loves the kids. But I’m intimidated by them. They’re honest, They see what’s there and don’t know how to be politically correct. A kid’s gonna give it to you straight because they can see through the bull. I’m intimidated by them because you can’t fool them.

I wanted to cancel out. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to kids on career day. My high school English teacher, the late Mrs. Merle Simmons, used to lock me into talking to her students when she was guidance counselor at the old Rivers Middle School back in the 1980s.

In those days I was one of a handful of Black journalists in town. I spoke to a lot of kids. It’s funny how kids remember things. Once while with a friend who picked up her adolescent daughter and a classmate from school, the classmate later told my friend’s daughter, “I know that man. He spoke to my class one time.”

Apparently I’d spoken to the kid’s class during one of those career day/get to know a professional day things at some school. That made me realize how impressionable kids are.

I’m sure the kids at Sanders-Clyde got a lot of impressions this morning. There were a lot of folks there - a number of cops (made me nervous), television personality Tessa Spencer (made this old man wish for younger days), Elise Davis-McFarland and hubby Arthur, White House staffer Clay Middleton, former Burke High Coach Modie Risher and some guy from the Medical University of South Carolina whose name I forget.

I was impressed by the guy from MUSC. He wore blue collar work clothes. Kids need to understand that professional doesn’t necessarily translate into a blue suit and tie. Thanks for coming as you did, Bro. I’m sure some of those kids saw the same thing I did.

My boy Calvin Morrison was there. It was his first time doing the career day thing. Like me, Cal had some anxiety. I don’t know why. Cal does the Beau Affair thing with young Black boys’ rights of passage. Cal ended up inspiring me. He reminded me that talking to kids is about keepin’ it real.

Jonathan Green showed up. I guess I should have expected that. I think Jonathan has adopted Sanders-Clyde as his arts project. Jonathan seems to me a real artsy type. Today was the third time I’ve met him. From he looks, one might think the brother is aloof. But while I don’t know him beyond three handshakes, I get the impression he genuinely cares.

Although it was career day, I found myself asking where were the parents. Sanders-Clyde is located in the middle of the projects. I ran through my mind some stereotypical concepts of parents and students from the projects - mamma’s at home watching soap operas while she waits on the food stamps to kick in as the folks at the school babysit the kids.

Going to Sanders-Clyde dispelled those notions. There’s an aura around that school, ya’ll. Although you’re looking at housing projects all around it, walking on the sidewalk in front of the school made me feel I was in a different place.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I started school at the old Sanders-Clyde back in 1959. It was a wonderful place then. The open breezeways are gone with the new facility, but the big windows give that same feeling of spaciousness. Makes a kid feel like he can soar. And that’s what they’re doing at Sanders-Clyde.

One ‘lil smart kid reminded me of what used to go on at Sanders-Clyde when I was there. This third-grader in Ms. Parkers’ class was so animated and full of questions, she almost had to nail him down.

Back to parents, airline stewardess LaTonya Memminger-Gamble was there. Her youngest is at Sanders-Clyde. Not only was LaTonya a career day speaker, her kid insisted she be there to watch her dance during the auditorium program to which the kids treated guests - a little suppin-suppin in the way of thanks from the students. I didn’t stay for that. I wanted to come write this column.

Of course, many of the speakers themselves were parents. So parents were there. But from what I saw this morning the grossly misapplied perception of project parents and students I spoke of earlier does not hold true at Sanders-Clyde. You don’t get that kind of environment without parental involvement.

All in all, the morning at Sanders-Clyde was a good one. But you know what, we shouldn’t wait until career day to visit our schools. Kids need to see positive role models any time, not just some specific day. So call your neighborhood school, visit with some kids. They’ll love it and you will too.

Trust me.

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