09 December 2012

We have visitors

My day job is at a big corporation. Corporations have to do some kind of charity work to remain respectable. They do some good things, but it's essentially window dressing. After all, the real job of a business is to make money.

One phase of this outreach was having 10 kids from an inner city high school come visit and shadow different workers. The workers talk about what they do and show them their sweet, sweet cubicles and the windowless conference rooms where they talk about payments technology.

I guess the idea is that if the kids see the insides of an office filled with clean and pleasant people, they'll want to work that much harder to achieve The Dream. But then, if I didn't have shit at home, and if my dad mostly did menial labor, maybe it would be appealing to know that if I buckled down in math class that a grey fabric box and a salary large enough to get me in trouble with the credit card companies is waiting for me.

Anyway, that's not the absurd part. I'll tell you about that later.

The organizers asked me to take some photos. They'll be published to show that we really do care about our community. We -- or some of my coworkers -- actually do care and try to help. I don't want to sound cynical about them. They're donating time and effort.

I asked them where the students came from. Turns out, they're all from the high school I graduated from, good old Abraham Lincoln. Once a blue collar/middle middle class school, now outfitted with the stigma and fascination that come with being "inner city."

Online, you can read various statistics that show how bad the students there score on standard tests.  Less than 10 percent of the students are proficient in basic math. You will discover they have had several principals over the last few years. You will read the school motto: "Think College. Si, se puede." About 93 percent qualify for free lunches. You will find out that 90 percent of the students are Latino.

I checked out the students who were visiting us. They were all Latino. (Latino's sort of a useless term, because it can apply to a guy like Mike Trujillo, who lived down the block from my parent's house and who's family has been in the state for a few generations longer than mine. And Latino can apply to Manuel Trujillo, who just came in from El Salvador a few weeks ago.)

They looked very serious. They also looked small, under five feet, both the boys and the girls. I tried to chat with them, focusing on the boys to reduce the creep factor. They seemed unusually withdrawn, but I figured I'd be a little closed down too, given the setting. I take a few snaps that should work, one of a cute-ish girl with eyebrows like caterpillars and an elfin boy.

The kids go on their rounds, in their navy blue Lincoln Lancers hoodies, ushered by ladies in grey Ann Taylor suits.

Once they'd left, we gossiped about them a bit. Alvaro an intern, was part of the tour. He is nice young guy from Spain, European and all.

Only two had been born in the US. Just a few of the visitors spoke any English at all. They had no clue what the chipper guys in pleated pants were saying to them.

Crazy, huh?

Alvaro asked, horrified, what will happen to them? How can they get jobs? What will they do?

We blabbed on about this or that, but what we said amounted to a collective shoulder shrug. I could see he didn't understand us and was shocked, emotionally that not much was being done.

I tried to explain to him: In America, you're on your own.

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