FEATURED BLOG POSTS - WEEK 3

Leena.jpg

LEENA AURORA | 29TH STREET COMMUNITY CENTER - WEEK 3

"Nope. Nope. I'm not going. No way, no interest." Most of the group nodded along. Week one is done with the six YouthWorkers that I'm supervising -- six high schoolers from around the city, four of who had worked at the center last summer.

On Wednesday, Elyse forwarded me an invitation from a local Community Schools coordinator. The mayor's office and the Baltimore Education Council were having a meeting about education funding, and our YouthWorkers were invited. The chance to sit in on city government, see them talking about an issue so close to the heart of the community center and our YouthWorkers? I was excited to tell the crew. After their lunch, my assistant supervisor, Minju, and I brought it up. To my initial surprise, most gave a definite "no", only a couple sheepish, saying they "might" go.

"Nothing's gonna change in the government. Even if you fire the mayor, she's still gonna be fine. She'll have a job."

"I saw, like, 20 teachers at my school get fired. It's ridiculous and I don't wanna go". Despite my urging them that their passion would be welcome and necessary, they were adamant that they'd rather be working hard at the center than going on a field trip like that.

On Thursday, though, the school coordinator that had invited us came in to give more information about the event, and walked out successfully convincing all six to attend. What point stuck? The offer of a pizza lunch once we returned to the center. Quite honestly, I can't say that I was entirely surprised, or even that I don't relate. Hey-- college kids love free pizza too!

What is sticking with me, though, is these students' perspectives on change. So many of them echoed that idea that nothing really would change, that they'd keep seeing their schools in varying states of disrepair.

For a lot of Wednesday, though, Minju led the YouthWorkers through an activity to brainstorm pressing issues that they saw in their community. He followed with an anonymous brainstorm and voting session for solutions that they could implement using the center. After filling up a piece of poster paper with a list of issues (many beautiful and relevant and perhaps a bit shocking) they chose to focus on violence. The unanimous choice on a solution was to bring an activist to speak at the community center, in an event targeted towards people in their generation. After more talks of event planning, we broke for lunch. Minju and I stood in the kitchen, microwaving our lunches. He looked at me, a glimmer in his eyes. "I feel this one. They're so close. I mean, just a speaker event would be cool, but this could be so much more. This is the stuff that could get on the news. I think maybe with us pushing them a little more, and it could be so much more. We're nearly there." I see it too. No, we're still not quite there, but I'm so excited to see where we'll be four weeks from now. What I'm the most certain of right now? There's more pizza in our future.