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At Caterpillar's 8th grade graduation celebration Mateo* would not speak to anyone. He sat at the back picnic table at dad’s house hunched over with his head down, avoiding eye contact or conversation with anyone, student, or adult. Over the summer his relative helped with elementary summer camp and Mateo would tag along. The first few days he stayed in the car the entire time. Then he started to join us inside to help setting up in the mornings. By the next week Mateo was anticipating what needed to be done and would jump in without being asked. He joined us on our first field trip to the aquarium and offered to lead a group of the kindergarten boys like the interns were. As we made our way through the aquarium he was smiling and interacting with the kids and several of the interns.
Fast forward to the end of summer... The shy Mateo, that sat quietly at the 8th grade graduation, is no more! He has shown up for EVERY event and opportunity we have had to help volunteer with whatever is needed. He has great conversations with his peers and adult leaders and has been laughing and smiling. His mom said that they recently had a conversation about his high cell phone use. At the beginning of the summer, he never had his cell phone and now he's talking on it all the time. He said that at the beginning of the summer the only people he had to talk to were his mom and sister but now he had made good friends with the interns he worked alongside.
Although Mateo has come out of his shell over the summer, he is still shy with most people and has been trying to catch up academically. He had hoped to play football and attended the end-of-year football camp, but was embarrassed because he had to borrow cleats from the school. His anxiety about this year's cost of football and his academics led to Mateo and his mother to decide to withdraw him from in-person learning (and football) to learn virtually instead for the 2022-2023 school year.
God had other plans. He put the people He needed in the right places to build relationships with the family over the years and especially this summer! We were able to have an honest conversation about the possible outcomes of virtual learning. This caterpillar, with his newfound confidence, work ethic, motivation, and dreams, was just starting to emerge from the cocoon. Through a series of events, Mateo was reenrolled for in-person school. The football coach was willing to accept another freshman last minute. A very generous donor gave a gift card to get football gear! Mateo is certainly ready to spread his wings this school year! To God be the Glory!
*Name changed for confidentiality