Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.
“I teach English and coach freshman football at Gonzaga High School. My older brothers and every male cousin, that’s ten of us, went to Gonzaga. It will sound crazy, but not only did my brothers and I go to the same high school, we also all went to Gettysburg College. Like me, my older brother Chris came back to Gonzaga to coach and teach after college. This place gets into your blood and you want to give back to it. I never thought I’d be a teacher, but when I got the opportunity to come back to Gonzaga, I jumped at it. This school did so much for me in terms of taking a narrow-minded suburban kid and opening up my eyes to the fact that there are people who don’t get all they need in life.
“For me, this school is a great representation of DC. We get a diverse group of kids: city kids, suburban kids, rich kids and poor kids. When you get them all together in this place, it sorta wakes up kids to the fact that there is a world outside of their suburban subdivisions or their inner city apartment buildings. And I think with this school being in a tough neighborhood, kids are forced to see the hardships of urban living. Gonzaga is not in some beautiful suburb. When these kids walk into school ever day, they are walking by guys asking for money who have nothing. There is a soup kitchen across the street. Kids don’t need to learn about poverty when they see it every day. All kids need to have a perspective like this. These are going to be the future leaders of the world. How can you lead if you think that everyone is like you and has the same problems and the easy life that you do?
“One of the reasons I got back into coaching is because athletics are the best way to teach kids how to deal with adversity. And a lot of the kids coming to this school, even if they come from the best economic situations, are all gonna deal with or are dealing with adverse situations. Athletics is also a great way to bring kids together. I’m the head freshman football coach. These guys, from such different backgrounds, they come together right away on the field. Out here, privilege doesn’t matter, everyone is on the same team. It’s hard to explain what I see happen to these kids. In a short time on the field, they grow up both physically and mentally and learn to trust and depend on each other. These relationships last and being an alumnus of this school, the friends I met that first day of football tryouts are still my best friends. They will probably be the groomsmen at my wedding and the Godfathers to my children. Now, I get to watch these relationships develop among my athletes. Coming back to Gonzaga means a lot to me. This is s a really special place for me.”