Written by NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member Laura “Lorax” Karson
“One of my favorite parts of working in Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School is being part of the Quiet Cafe program. Quiet Cafe is a space for students to eat lunch who are not as comfortable eating in the big cafeteria. When we were first introduced to Quiet Cafe, we were told that one of our main responsibilities would be to facilitate appropriate conversations between the students. I thought that this would be a difficult task after my first lunch with Jack and Jason, as neither of them were very verbal at all. Little did I know, Jason would soon start doing my job for me in a more creative way than I could have ever imagined.
After the first couple of days, once the two boys were comfortable with me, they were still quiet, but they became a little more verbal. One day, Jason was eating his lunch and seemed to be in his own world, but suddenly asked, “Who invented batteries?” Unfortunately, I did not know the answer to this question, which I told him, along with the affirmation that this was a really interesting question. The next day, under the same circumstances, totally out of the blue, he asked, “What is college?” This one I knew the answer to, and I explained college to the best of my ability. It led the three of us to have a genuine conversation about our hopes and fears about growing up.
Every day I look forward to lunch to see what questions Jason’s fascinating mind will come up with. Sometimes they are small and straight-forward, such as, “What is propane?” and sometimes they are big and serious, such as, “What is African-American?” No matter what, they are wonderful. I am extremely grateful that, little by little, we have this opportunity to help each other better understand the world.”