Thinking of not applying? I have someone for you to meet…

It’s winding down the admissions deadline, and some of you are starting to reconsider whether you should bother applying.

Before you make that decision, there’s someone I want you to meet.  Actually, two someones.
I met Ahoba on our very first day in Learning & Teaching.  We took a bus ride from Gutman Library to Kitty Boles‘s house, along with about 20 of our cohort members (the people on the bus loved us), where Kitty hosted us for a  delicious “Welcome to HGSE” dinner.  Everyone was nervous; it felt like we were back in freshman year of college, trying to make a good impression, wondering who would be our friends.  As we waited for the bus, and I awkwardly tried to decide how to insert myself into a conversation, I noticed a woman playing with a school-aged boy.  That woman was Ahoba, and that boy was her son, Jahcir.  I introduced myself, and we spoke for the next 30 minutes about Atlanta vs. Boston, parent engagement in schools, how we both got into teaching, and whether Jahcir would become a Red Sox fan over the course of this year.  (Answer?  No.)  I remember coming home and telling my roommates, “I really hope I get to be her friend.”
Just a few short months, countless library dates, one class together, several meals, lots of advice, and a ton of great hugs, I am so thankful to call Ahoba, “friend.”  I had an inkling of what an amazing woman she was in that first conversation, but I have since learned about her amazing leadership as a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, and the fact that she got accepted into a PhD program elsewhere before even applying to HGSE.  I have been the beneficiary of her insightful comments in class and her wise counsel on everything from how to engage struggling students to how to keep my socks from getting soaked in the rain.  I have watched her be an incredible mom to Jahcir, and I now know that if I ever have kids of my own, one of my first calls is going to be to Ahoba.  The woman’s figured out a few things we could all learn from!  Ahoba is respected and loved not only by me, but by so many here at HGSE.  She is a fixture in Gutman Library, where you can find her holding down the fort as Graduate Assistant for the Office of Student Affairs — she always has candy — or sitting in her chair every morning by the fireplace.  She leads Diversity Dialogues; organizes seminars; conducts research for professors; and somehow also manages to get home in time for her son’s bus.  (Although, personally, I love the days when she has evening class and brings him back to the library; the kid has more friends than I do!)  She is the one so many seek out for advice, a ride, a laugh, or encouragement.  I can’t imagine this school without her.
Here’s the crazy thing:  Ahoba almost didn’t finish her application!  
She was so close to closing the door on coming here, and she had some good reasons, too.  But I’m so thankful she didn’t.  She agreed to let me interview her, so she can tell you her story herself.  Here goes (please excuse my excessive nodding):

(And then, just for fun, the out-takes):

Some of you may also be wondering about making the transition to grad school with a child; to help you out, Jahcir also graciously offered his perspective in the interview below.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t get Jahcir on video, but if you want to see a video of him — along with an amazing Askwith Forum — check out 59:10 of the video here for his cameo appearance):

Sarah: What is it like having your mom in graduate school?

Jahcir:  I think it’s great.  I get a lot of free things.  I got a glass mug.  I have found myself having a lot of adult friends, which is not a bad thing.  My mom gets discounts on shirts and stuff, and when we go to games, I get free stuff.  At the basketball game, I got a Harvard #Gocrimson shirt!

S: How did you feel about leaving your home to move to Cambridge?

J: I thought that it was going to be a new experience.  I kind of felt sad that I was leaving my whole family except my mom.  It was kinda weird when we first moved here, because all I knew was the place I lived, but in Atlanta I knew all the places I went.

S: Do you like living in Cambridge now?

J: Yes, I think it’s ok.  I like that it’s a big city and it’s kind of like New York because I really like New York.  Something I don’t like is that I left my whole family in Atlanta.

S: What advice would you have for other kids who are moving here for their parents to go to school?

J:  If you are old enough, try to have some way to contact some people who you left back where you live.  I would say don’t worry about making friends…I’ve made new friends in my neighborhood and at school.  I think I know why — because you’re at school and you’re socializing with other kids and if they have a lot of friends, then you’ll eventually meet the other friends and you’ll become friends with your friends’ friends…I know this kid named Stefan, and at our bus stop he knew this kid named Evan, and now I recognize him and his brother Wyatt and they’ve become my friends, too.  And I know this kid named Atticus and the way I remember his name is probably “Attic” and “kiss.”

S: What are some new experiences you’ve gotten to have living in Cambridge?

J: So far, it’s been going to the Harvard-Yale [football] game, having hot cider, and walking so much that my legs hurt when I get home.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that before, because when you live in Atlanta, everything is so spaced out, so you drive.

S: What is a typical day like for you during the week?

J:  I’ll tell you about Wednesday.  I get up in the morning, eat breakfast, get dressed, go to the bus stop, go to school, learn, learn, learn, go to the bus stop, go back to my house.  Then, my mom picks me up, and we go into our house, grab a few things we need and pack up snacks, and we walk to the library.  One of her friends normally watches me while she’s in her 4-7 class.  Normally, I’m on my iPod or on the computers in the library.

S: Last question:  are you going to be a Red Sox fan by the end of this year?

J: I do not think so.

S: What about the Celtics?

J: No, and please do not ask me about the Bruins or the Patriots!

P.S. Now that you’re done reading this massive blog post, please consider this your personal invitation to go submit that application!  

Sarah Stuntz is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Instructional Leadership strand of the Learning and Teaching program.  As a former English teacher who plans to return to the classroom, Sarah loves learning about how literature and writing connect with adolescent development and social justice.