Surreal phone call

I got a phone call this afternoon from a boy who was a fifteen-year old participant in a summer employment program for public housing teens I taught three years ago, and whom I haven’t talked to since.

Saddened at how isolated most of the kids I work with were and wanting to take advantage of the expansive and uber-supportive network I had cultivated, I created a program called Film Your Future.  Students learned the technical aspects of filmmaking, as we created a documentary on careers, but also learned real world skills, such as networking, eye contact, thank-you cards, handshakes, arriving a little early, calling if you’re late, dressing appropriately, and using trip planners to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, as we took field trips all over Chicago to various jobs.  At each place of employment, a pre-selected student would interview our contact about his/her field and position, and then we’d get a tour of the workplace.


  • Anti-Cruelty Society
  • Health Club
  • Law firm
  • Investment firm
  • Career Center at DePaul University
  • Real Estate office
  • Acting studio
  • Architecture Department, City of Chicago
  • WBEZ public radio station
  • Catholic Charities
  • Film Department, Columbia College
  • Recording studio

Because I don’t usually see students to whom I teach video and photography again after a program ends, I for the most part don’t know where they end up.  I’ve run into a few and some will call occasionally, but usually I’m a fleeting adult in their life who made them log tapes, journal, and work on “being professional.”  Never thought I had much of an impact.  And then comes along this one.

“I just wanted to call and say thank you.  You were so inspirational.”  He went on to tell me he’s now in Scottsdale, Arizona, going to school for film production!  “I had no idea what I wanted to do until I took your program.”

We chatted for about twenty-minutes.

“I’m a little bit ahead of (the other students) because of my previous experience with you.”

“You taught me how to network and how to interview.  Before I met [name of a famous director I can’t remember], I wrote down all these questions so I was prepared to talk to him.  I never knew what networking was until you showed me.”

“I’m thinking about coming back to Chicago in the summer.  Maybe we can get the ol’ gang together and have a BBQ?”

And cue eyes to fill with tears.