BY TREVOR GARDNER
Kenitra Fewell doesn’t have time to sit around the Hark pool table and whine about the burdens of 1L year. During such rituals Kenitra is likely either caring for her son, Hughie, or completing tasks that will allow her more time to care for him.
“Most people meet each other in the Hark at lunch,” she said. “I go home for lunch. I think my mentality is a little different. I can’t say, ‘Oh I’m going to go chill in the Hark for three or four hours.’ I have to cook for my child, or get a lead test for my child.”
Hughie Fewell III, nicknamed “Tre,” was born on June 25, 1998. As a four-year old, Tre appears happy in Cambridge, and not the least bit timid in his new environment. For him, the recent move from Atlanta to Cambridge hasn’t required a transition period. Kenitra said that her son speaks to everyone he encounters on the street, clinging to his brief upbringing in a culture of Southern hospitality.
“He is a charmer, and the epitome of a Southerner,” she said. “Every time we walk to school, I’m accustomed to not speaking. Down South, you speak when you make eye contact. Tre speaks to everyone. I guess people don’t want to be mean to little kids, so they talk back.”
To ensure that Tre kept his disarming smile and made a seamless transition to the area, Kenitra began researching local day-care centers well in advance of the move to Cambridge. Instead of looking for an apartment close to campus, her first priority was to find a place close to a reputable day-care center.
“Even though you like a day-care center, it doesn’t mean your child will. And vice versa. In Atlanta I went through three or four day care centers until I found one that fit.”
None of the HLS students Kentira initially contacted knew of day-care centers near HLS. But eventually, she found the phone number to the Harvard Office of Working Families, which offered her five centers affiliated with the University. Kenitra then went to determine each center’s location relative to the Law School. Then she had to apply.
“I didn’t even know you had to ‘apply’ to get childcare, but you do,” she said.
Kenitra applied to three day-care centers: Botanic Gardens, Harvard Yard and Radcliffe. After landing a spot for Tre at the Botanic Gardens, Kenitra found out that the day-care selection process is fairly competitive.
“[Here,] he likes his teachers, and that’s important. He likes one teacher in particular. If he includes you in his prayers, he likes you,” she said.
Kenitra said she believes Tre’s relationship with his teachers is critical to his learning experience.
“Every day he asks, ‘Am I going to school today?’ I say, ‘No, it’s the weekend.’ He likes it.”
After signing a one-year contract with the day-care center, Kenitra then made the Botanic Gardens apartment complex her first choice in the affiliated housing lottery. She received her first choice. But Kenitra may have to move next fall when Tre begins pre-school to get him into a school she favors. Such a move carries an element of uncertainty, since Cambridge practices an aggressive busing system which Kenitra suspects is based on either race or economics.
“At the day care, Tre is the only African-American child in his class…. I would have to research the school my child would be attending if I got another apartment,” she said.
Such child-care responsibilities are especially time intensive, which makes Kendra’s ability to juggle multiple roles during the notoriously busy 1L year all the more remarkable.
“I’m still searching for time management [techniques],” she said. “Children do require a lot of attention. If I’m reading, he wants to know what I’m reading, and why I’m reading it. Right now I think I need to manage my time better and get my reading done while Tre is at day-care.”
However, Kenitra doesn’t view caring for Tre as a burden. “A lot of people said, ‘Don’t you think it’s going to be hard having a kid and going to law school?’ But I’ve had a kid for the past four years. I’ve had Tre since undergrad.”
Kenitra graduated from Tuskeegee University in Alabama in 1999, with a B.A. in math, and a B.S. in computer science. After leaving Tuskeegee she worked as an independent software developer, contracting with a number of large companies.
She said that students in her section are very supportive, and insist that she bring Tre to class. But she often warns them to be careful of what they wish for.
“Everybody says, ‘Just bring your kid to class.’ A: He’s not going to have fun in class. B: He’s going to bother other people. I can tune him out. Other people can’t do that. People ask me to bring him to section brunch. I don’t want my child to be left out, but I don’t think people without kids can appreciate the circumstances. I don’t want to put him in situations that have no benefit to him.”
Whenever Kenitra does bring Tre to campus students seem to enjoy his company. A few students have even offered to babysit. So far, Tre has spent some time in Wyeth with Keia Sears, a 2L.
“Tre likes other law school students,” she said. “He really likes Keia. He said he wants to stay in the dorm.”
[Photos by Ezra Rosser/RECORD.]