Getting Caught Catching Up
Another column deadline spurred me to check in with Reilly. We had a nice chat on a Friday afternoon, when he was relaxed and happy to answer my many questions. I was all set to write a column about how great he's doing (he is), but then he texted me a few hours later with news that some of his friends had been caught shoplifting at the Target store across the road from his school. He was with them, but not involved in the theft.
It was a stark reminder that, while Reilly and his friends are college-aged, and in a college-like setting, they are in many ways much younger than their years. Shoplifting is typically a younger adolescent crime, though I guess some people never quite outgrow the stage. Most of the students at NYIT's Vocational Independence Program  are experiencing a level of freedom from constant supervision that they have never had before. I guess they're bound to make some dumb mistakes. I'm not excusing the behavior, and the school seems to be taking it very seriously. I'm only saying it would be less surprising if the students were 14 or 15 instead of 19 or 20.
Reilly seems to understand the severity of the crime and the consequences for those involved. He is appropriately chagrined. He had to miss homecoming activities because he was with the offenders. The offenders themselves are being suspended or expelled, if not criminally prosecuted. Hopefully, this will serve as a big deterrent to Reilly. A lesson learned. He had a long conversation with his dad about the event. But then he said, “Other than that, it's a pretty good day!”
Indeed, my earlier conversation with him had been full of good news. He's liking the two for-credit classes that he's taking, Criminal Justice and Contemporary World History. He says he's able to keep up with the work. The rest of his classes are going well, also. When pressed, he said he's not wild about the literature course. They're reading parts of Dante's “The Inferno” and talking about the nine circles of Hell. He had to write any essay about his idea of Hell. I correctly guessed that his Hell is populated by Cowboys, Giants and Eagles fans. The Redskins remain his obsession. In cooking class, he's learned to make grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta and brownies.
He and a few friends took the train into Manhattan on their own one Saturday. They visited Madame Tussauds wax museum and ate lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. They planned and budgeted for the trip all on their own, learning useful skills.
The dining hall has a new chef this year, and the food is better. Reilly likes the new pizza bagels. The new freshmen seemed “weird” at the beginning, but now they're fitting in better. He and his girlfriend Ashley had just celebrated their nine-month anniversary.
We even talked a little about the future. He thinks he might like to transfer next semester to a school that has a sports management major. I told him I had looked at the application and he needed to write an essay about a challenge he has faced in his life. He said he couldn't think of one. I didn't tell him that it seemed to me his entire life was full of challenges! After some thought, he said he might write about how hard it was to leave home for the first time. I endorsed that idea.
So, he's doing well and he wasn't arrested. Yet. He's coming home this weekend, since he has no classes on the Columbus Day holiday. He's excited to watch the Redskins versus Cowboys game with his dad. I think I'll hug him a little tighter and resist the urge to lecture.