Dallas, TX –
I ran into a couple of old pals from my teaching days last week, Jeff Grimes and Dr. Geoffrey A. Grimes. Dr. Geoffrey Grimes is a very fine fellow and scholar who writes intellectual articles on the Gilded Age as reflected in American Literature and other esoteric topics. Jeff Grimes is playful and child-like and loves to get basic with children about education. He dresses up in costume and makeup and entertains them with his humorous portrayal of Mark Twain. Nowadays he also entertains them with his magic tricks and illusions. Jeff Grimes can get as silly and weird as necessary to pull off his jokes and tricks. Dr. Grimes can be as ivory tower arcane and exegetical as necessary to enthrall a roomful of Dr. Highbrowsers. Jeff can teach Spanish-speaking adults and children to read and write English and succeed in life.
Of course Jeff Grimes and Dr. Geoffrey Grimes are one and the same guy.
But it was Jeff that I talked to that day. We had breakfast and he told me about the work he's been doing for a few years to help with this Hispanic problem that we all hear so much about. Each Monday night he meets with Latina girls and their mothers at the Center for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education in Oak Cliff to help them make the difficult transition to community college. He works there with Dr. Maria Gonzalez, Professor Gloria Garcia, and others. They introduce the girls to professional women in law, business, education, and to older college students who act as mentors. Jeff also busily writes grant proposals to corporations and foundations to help fund the Institute and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors. He told me that anyone is welcome but this program centers on girls and women and their mothers. It's important, he says, that their mother be involved.
He's a jovial guy and antithetical to the stereotypical white male who is said to be so angry, even hate-filled, about the illegal immigrant problem. (Not to be discriminatory, white women can be angry about this problem too as well as Hispanic men and women.) In any case, the subject of trying to solve the problem in punitive ways and with a wall is so distasteful to him that he can't find the energy even to discuss it. "Education is the answer," he says.
There are success stories to prove his point on the Institute's website, www.oakcliffccs.org. I was interested to see pictures of women on the site who have gone through the program and graduated from college, many returning to help with the girls on Monday nights. Over the years I taught many excellent Hispanic students and so would like to add that some of my most artistic and creative students were Latinos.
Even after 35 years I remember the fine work turned in to me by Jesse Rios in my World Literature class of 1973. Somewhere in my boxes of outstanding student work there is Jesse's brilliant satire on Homer's Odyssey. From 1980 and at hand at all times is Robert Silva's hilarious and creative send-up of "creative writers" and of creative writing teachers. Meaning me, I think. This is all he wrote all semester but it was so much better than all the rest that I placed it on a page of its own in the front our class book.
Point being, Hispanic students often turn out to be some of our best and most successful students. Some, like today's newcomers, need a boost from the rest of us. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Dr. Geoffrey Grimes happily say one day that he and Jeff have retired and are being replaced by Latinas from the Monday night Oak Cliff seminars.