I woke early this morning and ran from one meeting to the next, and the next, and the next, with no breaks in between….then rushed to get to the youth program before the kids showed up. It was crazy hectic but it was all for the program and community.
I got to meet and talk to some amazing people. I was part of some conversations that are going to benefit all of Evansville in the coming months and years. I got to talk about our youth, families, and neighborhood… my favorite subjects! There was one meeting though that still has my emotions running….
It was my meeting with the staff from the Evansville Vanderburg Public Library (EVPL). You probably know our program is at EVPL East Branch two days a week. They were doing their “end of session” meeting and preparations for when we come back from break, and we were invited to come and be part of that.
First, Joann read a very powerful passage that moved me deeply. The premise was, instead of calling these kids “at-risk youth”, they really are AT POSSIBILITIES! Language and the words we use are just as powerful as the actions we take. Telling a youth they are “at-risk” is negative to the mind. It makes them feel as if what they are now is some trap they have to escape from. These kids, given the right opportunities to explore and grow, can do amazing, incredible things. What they are is situationally-disadvantaged. That is what the SSYZ is about, giving them the support, opportunities, and tools to full-fill their possibilities.
Literacy was a big topic, as it has been all session. A lot of our kids have struggled with reading and we have been trying a variety of techniques to help them along. We still have a ways to go, but they are making progress. Even though they have more work ahead of them, being at the library and being part of that world has started to change their mindset of books and reading. It’s not this overwhelming, scary thing that they just don’t feel they get. Because they are being supported and cheered on by everyone, being exposed to books that align with their interests, they are starting to see reading as a stepping stone to bigger more wonderful things. Books have become our number one request for the in-house-store and in-house library. Just amazing and none of it wouldn’t have been the same without our librarians.
There was one point in the conversation that tears just started streaming down my face. Zachary Hoskins was telling a story about an activity he recently ran with our youth. He had done the same activity before with another more affluent group of students. The story is his to tell, but the ending was what just melted me to my core. He talked about how bright our youth were and how they seemed to “thirst” for the knowledge. To have someone else see what Cathy and I see in these youth. To have them see them for the wonderful, bright, and full of potential youth that they are. To have them recognize that these youth have so much to offer, they want to soak in the knowledge and skills to help them achieve success, and all they need is the opportunities to do so…. there are just no words to describe the emotions. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming even though it made everyone look at me. We are so proud of these kids!
Cathy and I keep getting asked why we do this. Why we have poured ourselves into this…. that is the reason why.
It’s about giving these kids the same advantages as everyone else. It’s about watching them grow and soak in the knowledge around them. It’s about having others see their huge potential like we do. It’s about watching them overcome their challenges and achieve their greatest successes.