Issue Date: April 4, 2008
Elmerie Rosser does not complain about her life, but she doesnt hide its hardships either. She is the primary caretaker of a father in the acute stages of Alzheimers and the single mother of a 10-year-old daughter.
Thats my life, she says. Taking care of my dad and making sure my daughter gets a good education. Beyond that, there is no time.
Rosser is proud to send her daughter Lorrianna, a fourth-grader at St. John, to a private school. But even more than pride, she feels relief.
Im just happy shes safe every day, says Rosser, 57. Sometime in the last 10 years the public schools didnt feel safe to me anymore.
She reared three children who did attend Memphis public schools. They made it through and have done fine in adulthood. Shes not citing statistics; it is her gut that says Lorrianna would face peril in those same schools today. Still, without the Jubilee Schools, Rosser says, she would have had no option.
We barely make it as it is, she says. We couldnt afford a private school anywhere else.
Rosser, like 91 percent of the parents who send their children to a Jubilee School, is not Catholic. And she admits she would love for Lorrianna to attend a school run by the Pentecostal church.
But its not here, she says plainly. The Catholic schools are here, so I tell Lorrianna to listen to what they say about God. Because this is a Catholic school and we knew that when we came here.
Its more than a school these days. For Rosser, its her single means of income. She works part-time as an assistant cook at St. John. While shes away from home, a neighborhood friend tends her father. The school is Lorriannas primary source of friends.
We dont have free time, Rosser says. When were home, Lorrianna stays inside. I hate that she cant spend more time outside. But at school, she gets to go out and play with her friends.
Lorrianna spends much of her time at home studying, watching television or playing video games. They live in a well-built bungalow that Rossers father has owned for more than 40 years. Just blocks off Lamar Avenue, a busy thoroughfare, the house sits on the corner of another busy street with an automotive garage and liquor store on one side and single-family houses on the other. Rosser says she just cant take the risk of sending Lorrianna outside.
All my friends are at school, Lorrianna says. I dont see them anywhere else but at school because they live all over.
So its positive, Rosser says, that St. John stays open year-round.
If shes not at school, shes here, Rosser says. At least there she is learning and spending time with all of her friends.
-- Michael Humphrey
National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008
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