Once a week I take the ABC scholars of my town over the landmark Zakim Bridge to tutor kids in the historic Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. (This is that bridge with Boston Harbor and Paul Revere’s famous Old North Church in the background.) And here you see ABC scholar Enderson Naar, Winchester High class of ’15, helping a child with his math – and that’s his WHS classmate Tobi Omola in the background.)
The place we tutor at, 826 Boston, has done some amazing work helping kids unlock their potential as writers and readers and wide-wake individuals in general who never miss a trick. The children come after school to do their homework and learn, even as our ABC scholars come to assist, and admire their writing and help them feel about reading the way everyone else in the place does.
I’m only the chauffeur on these jaunts. Four years ago when we started doing this, I decided it would be best to stand aside and let them shine; also to let them really own the experience. They have to commit to a day and a time-slot ahead of time and register online. Then at 2:15 when they’re just out of class themselves, I appear, my car loaded with snacks, and we head into the city, talking the whole way.
It is wonderful to arrive there on the Roxbury-Dorchester line, the place I was born and spent the first ten years of life. I love the area, and these eight guys seem to love it too, as they are from some great old neighborhoods themselves: Harlem and Philly, Queens and Brooklyn, and two from the proud old Connecticut cities of Bridgeport and Meriden.
We perk right up when we move through the tunnel, get off at Mass. Ave, and go right down Melnea Cass Boulevard. Sometimes take a new way, trying to shave time and see all new things. When we passed a Popeye’s last time, LaVon said “I feel like I’m home! Stop the car!”
When we arrive at last here, they walk into the whimsically named Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute and get down to work. I, meanwhile, sit in my car dreaming back to the time my big sister and I attended the old Notre Dame Academy the site of which is not 1000 yards away. A fantastical place that old school was, with long-gowned nuns floating down the marble hallways, their feet as invisible as duck’s feet. The Dimock Health Center, once the New England Hospital for Women and Children, was built at the same time and has the same beauty. See?
When I went to school here, this Egleston Square section of Boston was unlovely, with the elevated train darkening all its streets. Today I find it nothing but lovely. I recently walked to the very site of my school and took this picture.
Here is the old stone wall made of Roxbury Puddingstone, at the edge of what was once the school’s grounds and is now a graceful apartment building:
And these are the homes we pass along Washington Street.
When the boys get done with their 90 minutes of tutoring they bound out to my car with their spirits even higher than they were. They laugh, and listen to Bob Marley, or Frank Ocean, Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars as I carry us homeward. Often they sing. And sometimes when I think they’re not aware of it, I prop my phone on the dashboard and record them doing it. I couldn’t love this weekly task more if the ABC program paid me to do it but everyone’ efforts for the program are donated. Tell you what doing it makes me feel so alive I often think I should be paying ABC.