Stories from the Schools
The tragic school shootings that happened earlier this year led to one of our classes taking a detour to discuss youth violence and our response to it. Students began to open up about their own experiences. What was more saddening than the amount of violence they have encountered at 11 years old, was how easily they talked about it... Like it was a perfectly normal part of everyday life.
One of the girls shared a story about a New Year’s Eve she spent standing on a toilet in an upstairs bathroom, because shots were being fired downstairs and they were coming up through the floor. Another shared about her seven year old sister hiding under a car, because a gang shooting took place right in front of their house. Another spoke of a teenage girl being shot and killed at her apartment complex, and seeing the body laid out in the middle of the road.
These are experiences that no one should have to go through, let alone children. What does it teach them about a person’s value - their own value - if they see life carelessly wasted or taken for granted? How are they supposed to see their lives as important, vital, and full of potential?
For our team, this session hammered home the importance of the message that we are teaching in the schools. Every student we encounter needs to walk away with the understanding that they are loved, valued, and empowered to make positive choices. Each of us was more determined to help young people realize that they are a unique presence in this world, that our week would be less without them, and that they don’t have to be defined by the world they see around them.
While this is an ongoing work and we are only able to see them for a short time in their weeks, we are thankful for the opportunities the schools give us to spend time with their students. Our end-of-year review showed that the girls had really heard what we were sharing with them, and that even one hour a week really does make a difference. These are just some of the lessons the students felt they learned this year:
“I am very smart and valuable.”
“I can be confident with anything I do.”
“I learned to love myself.”
“I’m unique, I’m not like everyone else.”
“Never give up on your dreams.”
Having this understanding of who they are will impact their decision-making in the future, as well as how they see others around them. We hope these truths will go with them long into the future.