Washington Heights Kids

I’ve been waiting to write about my last day with the Washington Heights kids until I got my pictures back.

Guess where we are.


Columbia University.

Forty-some middle-schoolers to the subway station, onto the subway, off the subway and around a large campus. They pushed each other into bushes, they said “hi” to EVERYONE, and they laughed uncontrollably at the mention of Columbia accepting homosexuals.

But I really did learn to love those kids. And as the tour guide told them about the sort of grades you need to get into Columbia, I started questioning how many of them would make it to college at all. Finding the actual stats for that was difficult — less than 18 percent of Washington Heights teenagers will graduate college. Not too hopeful. I wish all of them could come to Iowa State.

So, on this day that I’m moving back to Ames for my senior year of college, I am reminded to be thankful for my college eduction.

Highlight of my last day at Operation Exodus: After the tour, we had time to kill, so we walked to the nearby New York Public Library branch. One of the tutors told the kids to get books to read quietly. One of the girls found Romeo & Juliet and brought it to show me. She’d read it before, she said, and started to read quietly to me. She read every line smoothly and laughed at Shakespeare’s humor. Smart girl. Fun little moment.


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