The hopeful years: Children of the South Bronx

In the classroom and beyond

April 10. A Sunny afternoon, but cool. The kids are in the big room at St. Ann’s, an Episcopal church in New York’s South Bronx. They are finishing their homework during the afterschool program.

Pineapple is struggling with the electric pencil sharpener next to the closet on the left side of the room. Eight years old, she huffs and puffs as she keeps putting the same pencil back into the sharpener, then looking at the point with obvious dissatisfaction, then putting it back in again, until it’s down to almost nothing. She keeps staring at it with an irritated look, as if she knew that this was going to happen.

When she’s done, she passes out the pencils to the children at her table, saving the one she’s sharpened to a stump for last, then giving it to a boy she doesn’t like because he teases her for being plump.

“This is s’posed to be a pencil?” asks the boy.

“Don’t answer him,” she tells the other children.

 

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