As the Executive Director of a not-for-profit often times the job is filled with meetings, budgets and paperwork. However, when I decided to help turn this organization into a not-for-profit I made a promise to myself and to the organization: I would spend at least part of my time still with the community. People always ask me, “How do you have the time?” The truth: I don’t have the time. I’m often staying up late at night followed by getting up early in the morning to make certain that the paperwork is complete. Although I am exhausted at times, it is worth it when teachers, students, and parents tell me thank you.
Our home base as an organization is the Washington Metropolitan region. We work with schools from the heart of south east DC to communities in Virginia and Maryland. Over the years we have worked hard to make certain that 90% of our programs are supported at least in part by an outside funding source. Sometimes we get to travel and support schools in other regions
Last week we partnered with York Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. The teachers asked us to focus on having the children write pieces of historical fiction. They were required to step into the shoes of some of the most famous and instrumental civil rights heroes of our time. It was powerful. I observed students do research on Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Junior, and so many others. The questions they asked and statements they made were so insightful.
Two examples were…..
“Ms. Ross, why would someone be mean to another child just because they look different? All children should be allowed to go to school.”
“I can’t imagine behaving this way. I’m going to grow up and make sure nobody behaves this way to another person.”
During the actual time of writing, I observed the students who normally struggle become successful. They were able to write easily because they connected to what they were writing. We had used the tools of drama to learn about the subject, as well as, to help us become authors.
Every day I strive, through Story Tapestries, to serve my students, and my community better. I try to listen. My struggle comes when I see children marginalized because of color, learning style, ability, religion, disability, sexual preference…..I try to find ways to help people see the value of a child. Sometimes I succeed and more often I am told,”They can’t be fixed so don’t bother.” or “They have been struggling to learn so don’t try.” YET….More often than not, these children can and do. This past week A SHOUT OUT to York Elementary School in NC as well as Leonardtown Elementary School in MD. They listen, they hear and they believe that their children can succeed.