At the writing workshop, I ask the students if they are here because they think writing is important. A couple of them raise their hands. Then I ask if they are taking the workshop because they will receive extra credit, and most of the hands shoot up. I had offered to share my love of language by teaching this workshop at Face to Face Academy, a charter school for homeless youth in crisis, after learning that 70 percent of all teens in foster care end up being homeless for a year or two—foster parents no longer receive help from the government when the child turns eighteen.
Dr. Sobkoviak of Frogtown, our dentist, stood looking out the window of his office at Western and University and saw Russia. As he changed the point of the drill, looking straight through Old Home Dairy across the street into the Kremlin, he warned me about Nikita Krushchev. He was slow and thorough, stopping to polish his glasses in front of that window. In his starched white tunic, he was a true professional.
I will never forget the first time I entered a Mexican store as an eight-year-old and tried to buy something. It was after I had emigrated from the United States to Mexico. I had trouble with ordinary words, like asking to use the bathroom. I had to tell one of my older sisters to do it for me, because they knew more Spanish than I did. One day, my dad sent me to the store to buy leche (milk). I had a very puzzled expression, so my sister slapped me across the head and said, “It’s milk, you retard.” “Well, sorry, miss know-it-all!” I answered her back while rubbing my head. As it turned out, my sister went for the milk.
Anyone who knows the history of Neighborhood House on Saint Paul's West Side probably knows the name Constance Currie. Born March 18, 1890, in Saskatchewan, Canada, to a family with a long history of social service, she began her career at Unity House in Minneapolis. But it is her many years as director of Neighborhood House (1918-1957) that best mark her legacy.