I wanted to post a quick story about my favorite student. Not so much for you peeps out there reading this, but mostly for me, so I can remember it .
My favorite kid is a murderer. DC pled guilty to a murder in the second degree charge and got sentenced to 24 years. 24 years. It seems like an eternity. 24 years ago I was 7 years old and lived in Mexico City. I had cassette tapes and a rotary phone. 24 years ago, there were two Germanys.
It's weird what working with these kids will do to you. I am now appalled and offended by those who think all our kids got what they deserve. The other day, I bumped into who I thought was an extremely liberal and progressive lady and when I mentioned the DC case, she was like, Oh, but he killed someone, that's necessary.
Before he got sentenced, I wrote a letter on his behalf:
"It is with great concern and anticipation that I write this letter on behalf of Devonte Carlton. I have known Devonte since he came to the Incarcerated Youth Program in September 2009. From the beginning, I noticed that Devonte was different from the other students. He was innately respectful, responsible and eager to learn. As time passed, he quickly moved to the head of the class, achieving a 4.00 for every advisory. In class, I have never once had to remind him to complete an assignment or interrupt class to redirect his behavior. Devonte is a model student in every way. He will repeatedly ask for extra assignments and complete them on a timely manner. He will seek out higher level work and educational materials constantly. Most students that we serve are mostly interested in outcomes and grades, but Devonte is truly interested in learning new concepts and improving himself through education.
During my time at the jail, I also have gotten to know Devonte on a more personal level and have grown very fond of this mature, funny and charismatic young man with a caring disposition. During our life skills sessions, we discuss many topics that are controversial in nature and Devonte is the voice of reason in many of them, he and I share a love for geography and current events. He is also and avid reader and is well liked and respected by his peers. I have never, in the past 8 months heard him use inappropriate language or speak to an adult or another inmate in a derogatory manner. His behavior is consistent and professional. He does not glorify the street life culture or join his peers in aggressive and vulgar behavior. There is not a single day, where I am not in awe by how well Devonte deals with his situation and I am humbled and impressed by his demeanor.
I have served as the mathematics teacher for the Incarcerated Youth Progam at the DC Jail for about a year and a half and have worked with over 94 juveniles. Devonte is only the second student I have spoken about on his behalf. I do so because I am certain that Devonte has the willpower, discipline and cognitive ability to turn his life around. I don’t believe he is a threat to our society, but on the contrary, I believe that given a second chance, he could achieve great things some day. I hope that he can have such opportunity to use his potential for a greater good."
The reason I didn't take out his name is because all of this is public information. Since DC was convicted as an adult, you can google his name and get all the details of the crime and sentence. What really gets to me are the horrible comments people post as a response to the articles. They don't even know him! People feel so entitled to just make assumptions about others who make mistakes. Who are they to judge? Why does DC have to give up 24 years of his lifetime when so many go unpunished, when our own army and police commit murder every day? Why did they have to make an example out of him? The judge could have given him 10 years. He also could have given him 40 or more. 24 seems like such an arbitrary number. Like 23 wasn't enough, he was sure to kill again, but with 24 he will be rehabilitated.
To sum it up, what got to me the most was seeing him yesterday and today. The sentencing was Friday and I missed it by 2 minutes. He had all memorial day weekend to let it sink it, to realize his son would be 25 years old by the time he would be out. To think that when he is finally free, he will be 41. In a way. I almost expected for everyone to be right, for Devonte to turn wild and evil like everyone really thinks he is, that his whole awesome student/great person was just a charade, that he was playing us so that he could get a short sentence. But no. Monday, Devonte was just the same; cheerful, happy, funny, courteous, ready to do some math, asking for help in a Sudoku puzzle. He was EXACTLY the same. As if nothing had happened. I am so proud of him, so amazed by his strength. I tried to act as if I didn't know. I don't think the other teachers do, and he has definitely not told the other guys. I tried not to show the incredible pity in my eyes.
I hope in the next 24 years people don't forget about him.. I want to think that I won't forget about him, that when he is transferred to a federal facility next month, I will write to him, year after year, I will send him a birthday card. That I will send him Sudoku books and remind him how I taught him how to solve them. This is why I write this, so I can always remember how much potential he had and what a tragic event all this was.