WUNC 91.5 | North Carolina Public Radio
Reporting by Lisa Philip, Photography by Madeline Gray
It’s the last day of school at East Millbrook Middle School in Raleigh. Loud speakers announce the start of summer and the arrival of school buses to take kids home. Students trickle out of doorways, saying goodbye to each other and their teachers.
Thirty-six-year-old Ayeisha Owens picks up her daughter Kaiden and drives down the road to pick up her younger daughter Karisma from an elementary school nearby. She waits in the carpool line behind dozens of cars, feeling anxious. But she doesn’t let on to her daughters. She’s taken a half day off work to pick them up.
“Sorry I’m so late Mommy,” Karisma says, hopping into the backseat of her mom’s SUV, opposite her sister. “Ms. Garrett gave me a cupcake, then she had to sign my yearbook.”
“Wait, wait a second, Karisma,” her mom says. “You don’t even like cupcakes!”
Her older sister Kaiden, 12, clutches her pink and velour backpack and gives her mom the rundown on her yearbook.
“I have a best friends page, and a regular people page,” she says.
Kaiden has just finished her last day of the sixth grade – Karisma, the third grade.
From this car ride home until late August, they’ll pretty much be free of obligation. And that – the thought of her girls at home for days on end, without structured activity or learning opportunities – was unnerving to their mother.
“Only because I didn’t know what they would be doing,”Ayeisha said.