Edwinta Rhue, Jersey City Public School District Community Aid
I have been a community aid for 16 years. My job is to keep children in school. The students are allowed to be absent for 18 days each school year. I do home visits from pre-k through 5th grade. I have some parents who are single, some who are working, some who have health issues, and some homeless students. The parents are not able to get their kids to school, so we figure out a way to get them to school.
My first year I started doing this, it was very depressing. I do home visits, and I see how people live, and sometimes I see the struggle of the kids trying to make it, and sometimes parents need help, so any assistance I can offer, I give them. There are some parents who are very private and do not allow themselves to be vulnerable. So when I am able to talk to them, I offer them assistance; but they have to want it. You know, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
I have had students I have helped come back to visit me. I had one student who was doing this project, and I helped them. And years later they told me how much that meant to them. I had this one who is now in the 8th grade, and her sister, both of whom I knew since pre-k, and they gave me a card that told me I was the funniest person they knew, and it meant so much to me. I still have that card. It’s just those little things that you don’t realize: how much of an impact you can have on people.
The major challenge I face is getting some of the students to see that school is necessary. Especially if there is a bullying incident, they may not want to come to school. But the students who are being bullied get a lot of intervention so they are not alone, and the school and parents help them to work it out. It is a challenging job, and not all parents appreciate what I do by keeping them in check, but I love what I do. This job has taught me that every situation is different. It doesn’t matter where you grow up. There is always something positive you can contribute in this world.
Article and photograph by Gregory Andrus. To see more of his work go to www.potjs.com.