Last week I had some out-patient surgery. (No worries, I am fine and back at work.) The same day, it was announced that the BETA Center would be closing its doors in June. I have been a teacher there since 2009.
My day job for the last ten years as been as a teacher of exceptional students in Orlando. No, I don’t teach at the gifted program. My first assignment was at a mental health facility. I was there for ten years. And my students, all young woman, were there as a result of trauma. I loved them and they loved me. They learned and so did I, but it wasn’t until BETA that I really began to develop as a teacher and a writer.
BETA, my current assignment,is part of a private public partnership that provides for the needs of teen mothers. There is a day care on site run by the agency (BETA). They also provide counselors for the students and help with everything from diapers and food to career counseling. BETA also houses a residential program.
Combined with the school, we have one of the highest graduation rates in the county.
My students aren’t statistics. They are real human beings who are working for a better future for themselves and their children. They don’t need to “close their legs” as one commentor to the Orlando Sentinel article on the closing responded. They need compassion and the one and one attention that BETA gives them. They need to be seen a real whole people not “breeders”.
My first year there one of my students was a victim of abuse. She was nineteen. A mom working her way to graduation. When she was eighteen, she came home to find her apartment vacant. Her parents had left her and her baby. They moved without telling her. She didn’t let that stop her. She continued to come to school.
The next year she had moved in with her boyfriend trying to finish school when things turned violent. He didn’t care if the bruises showed or not. He didn’t care. She was his and he could do anything he wanted with her and to her. BETA helped her get out. She is alive today because of BETA. She wants more for her life because of BETA.
Her daughter is in the second grade because of BETA.
She wasn’t the first and she wasn’t the last teen mom to face emotional and physical abused. Every year students come into my classroom having faced horrors that no teen should ever have to face. It isn’t just bullying that these young woman face. Any parent can tell you how hard being a new parent is. No image being a teen mom without the ability to provide the basics for your child. Many of the students work and go to school at night. One young woman, I taught for two years was worked until two in the morning at cleaning service. She came to school and fought everyday to stay awake. She didn’t graduate with honors, but she did graduate.
BETA helped make that happen. My day job does this. Helps young woman find their voice and direction and beat the odds. It is more than just a job. More than a career. It is part of what makes me a good writer. My students aren’t one dimensional people. They are amazing. They inspire me. And they all have stories.
Yes, there are other places that can serve the needs of the community but none of them are like BETA. BETA is a place that saves lives and gives hope. I have had students who have survived domestic violence and homelessness. The BETA serves as an emergency shelter and is currently the only local shelter that can provide shelter to a minor with a child. My heart breaks for my students and their children. It is also breaking for the community as well.
There are efforts underway to try and keep the doors open. If you can, I encourage you to donate by following the link. Every bit helps. It really does.
P.S. BETA also helped make me the writer that I am today. It was working with my students that pushed me from just talking about writing to actually writing. My students overcome so much just to get to school some days to reach their goals, how could I complain that I didn’t have enough time to write? So I did and I keep doing it.