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A Walk in Palm Springs, Age 59

Recently retired from the California Department of Education, Andrew Laufer is writing a book about his life including periods as a butcher's helper, food service worker, construction laborer, animal research assistant, seasonal fire fighter, and janitor. In his youth, he hitch-hiked up and down the coast and out to Colorado numerous times providing context for hundreds of short stories.

At the California Department of Education, I had oversight responsibility for five general areas of education including the After School Division. The ASD administers state and federal funds earmarked for expanded learning programs, better known as after school programs.

The ASD serves about 400,000 kids daily and the impact of the program on the lives of students from all walks of life is extraordinary. The programs are generally operated at school sites by passionate people who help kids succeed in school and life. To keep staff motivated and allow them the opportunity to share their passion, expanded learning professionals attend the BOOST Conference. BOOST stands for Best of Out of School Time. It is a highly charged, and extremely motivational conference that serves to keep professionals in the business of helping kids succeed.

Many programs are targeted toward at-risk students from low-income households, or neighborhoods rife with gang activity. Their chances of success are often dimmed by the harsh realities of life. These programs often provide avenues of hope for kids facing barriers to success that would force many to succumb to defeat. Were it not for the selfless humanitarians sponsoring the out-of-school-time programs, prospects for many of these kids would be dismal.

The last BOOST Conference I attended was held in Palm Springs. I love the optimism at the conference and the practical approach programs use to help kids cope with harsh realities.




One day, after the conference was through for the day, I decided to put on my gym clothes and go for a power walk. I left the hotel not knowing which way to go. My goal was to walk for about an hour, and to walk in a large loop until I returned to the hotel. I found myself walking in some rough neighborhoods of Palm Springs.

I was in a rough part of town, it really didn't matter to me because I was so high on the information I was learning at the conference. I was struck by the hope the programs provide to everyone, no matter what their life circumstances were. As far as I was concerned, the world was once again, a wonderful place.

My heart was light and full of optimism for all kids. As I was nearing the termination of my walk, with about four blocks to go, a car approached the intersection up ahead. The rear window was being lowered and I noted some high school youth in the back seat. My heart lit up and I was thinking those kids were just like all the outstanding kids talked about in the conference. As the kid near the window started to raise his hand, I smiled and waved until I realized that he was flipping me off. My optimism was dashed in an instant of reality.

Here was a tough kid, from a tough neighborhood flipping off this pudgy, middle aged, white guy. He probably thought I was probably filthy rich. To him, all I deserved was a big "fuck you." I guess this kid wasn't part of the 400,000 other kids who are served by BOOST programs. I wished I could stop and talk with him and let him know there is hope.

Thank God for BOOST programs. I'm a fan for life.

~ Andrew Laufer













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