Wow. It’s hard to describe this program. It’s exhausting. It’s gratifying. It’s terrifying. But most of all, it makes me want to get through class in the morning so I can get to Broad Ripple High School. I never come feeling poorly. I never come downtrodden. I come in excited about the kids’ lives and their days.

Some days, Broad Ripple is like heaven. We’ve all had good days, the kids have had good days, the sun is shining, and smiling faces take over our room as we get to work. On those days, it’s not hard to connect with the students. It’s not hard to joke around and be another kid, rather than a wise, age-hardened mentor who has all the answers. On those days, I leave with hugs and smiles. The students make jokes about how two days is too long, how they can’t wait until we’re back. And we hurry back on Thursday to see their smiling faces again.

Some days, Broad Ripple is a little rough. We haven’t had good days; the kids haven’t had good days. The sun is cowering behind thunderheads, the hallways are dark. On these days, it can be hard. It can be hard to keep a smile going. It can feel fake to tell the kids that everything is going to be okay, here’s why you shouldn’t feel bad, this is what happened when I was younger. It can feel forced and wrong, but the thing is, it isn’t the words that matter at all. It’s the presence. It’s the listening, the caring. The effort to share what little knowledge might help. The peace of having a confidant who isn’t in their school group. The effort to prove that this won’t be another insincere and disappointing conversation.

It’s sometimes hard to remember what middle school and high school were like. But spend a week in Broad Ripple High School, and you will realize how much it would’ve meant to have someone there. You’ll remember what it was like to be on the butt end. Spend a week in Broad Ripple High School and notice how much difference we make.

Mike Nugent is a senior Economics major.