In our school program we started one session asking everyone to share their strength, but most of our students struggled to find one. Sadly, many of our children are conditioned to limit themselves instead of acknowledging their potential. Because of the environments they are exposed to they are often ostracized and unheard. Their differences have not been seen as positive assets, but instead reasons they are not good enough. One child said, “I don’t understand why [skin] color makes a difference.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
In the school setting, the feeling of being singled out has left many of our youth with a sense of detachment from their education. In order to get through the day one of our students shared she is “disconnected during class and reconnected during brunch and lunch.” Lunchtime is when our program takes place. With low diversity in their school, our students stand out and deal with the repercussions of not fitting in everyday. This has created a sense of apathy towards trying to make a change. When one of our facilitators suggested trying to make others “see our beauty”, a student responded with a strong “No”. She did not believe there was any point in making her voice heard because no one would listen. This is a sentiment she has echoed many times, possibly backed by many real life experiences. Still, we work to show our youth that it is possible to make yourself heard.
In our program we create a safe environment for our children to explore their differences and find their authentic voice. Projects we work on foster skills that will help with problem-solving, making decisions, and collaboration. They’re expressing themselves creatively while learning the importance of advocating for yourself. These youth are not limited to a predetermined label. They are strong and have the power to influence their future.