Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Indispensable Marie Wallace

When I began going to the Project Coach sessions I would see Marie Wallace occasionally but I wasn't sure who she was; I thought maybe she worked for a Springfield high school. She was enviable at ease, joking with the the Blue Shirts, giving them cookies.

Marie,who just graduated from Smith College and is going on to study at the University of Austin, first became involved with Project Coach in her junior year at Smith College; she was taking one the Sam Intrator's classes, one of Project Coach's directors, and had to incorporate a community based project as part of her class work. She was opposed to taking a class with with Professor Intrator since he hadn't accepted her for a previous project, but she grudgingly accepted to write blogs once a week for Project Coach. She became "very interested in the teenagers, asking them about their grades, what their life was like at school." Then Marie started going down to Springfield more than that days she was required to, helped coordinate tutors to come. She also started an SAT program last fall. She interviewed for the job, got the job and was the co-director with a student from Mount Holyoke. Marie says that the Blue Shirts hated her the entire time but she bribed them with food and they all took the SATs. By the end of last year she was "in love with the program, in love with all of the teenagers" and she would write about her experience at Project Coach in any class that she could, eventually leading her to write her senior thesis on the program.

The following is an interview with with John, who is one of the Blue Shirts Marie worked with, and with Marie, where she discusses the challenges she faced when she began forging friendships with the Blue Shirts, some of her most memorable moments with them, and how her experience at Project Coach has shaped her professional aspirations. We met outside and sat on the grass, Marie had just gotten back from being with some of the Project Coach Blue Shirts and a group of French high school students who were visiting from Marseilles. One of the Blue Shirts had left his cellphone in one of the graduate student's car and called Marie in an effort to retrieve it. She then coordinated the retrieval, calling one student to get the phone number of the student with the car and then in turn calling her before calling back the Blue Shirt with the misplaced phone to reassure him that he would have it back the next day, an example of one of the many things she persistently, dedicatedly, does for Project Coach.

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