In March 2005 I was asked by a particular program from the Governor's Office of Louisiana to teach a 2 week course at our local Junior High School. Although I don't work at the school or in the school system, my background in health education led them to me as best qualified to teach the course. I went in with my best educator's face on, my "motivational" voice ready and a solid lesson plan. Piece of cake, right? WRONG!
I was blessed to grow in up a home with both my mother and father. While we weren't wealthy by any means, I don't recall ever worrying about food or whether I was going to have breakfast in the morning and supper at night. I certainly never had to worry about when my father was getting out of jail or if my mom was finally going to get out of rehab! Through out the course I realized I needed to be a little flexible with my "solid lesson plan" and listen to what this group of young girls (classes were segregated by boys and girls) were telling me. The program was about high-risk behaviors and how to avoid them. It was supposed to teach self-respect and give skills for relationship building. I told these girls how precious they were and I actually heard a couple of them say out loud "Yeah, right." Can you imagine? I went home most nights hugging my own children very tight and crying myself to sleep. But my biggest heartbreak was yet to come.
There was an exercise in the program where the children are to write down their dreams for the future. A full 75 % of them could not do the exercise. At an age where dreams are supposed to be boundless and opportunities and hopes are supposed to be without limits, these children not only had lost all their dreams, but seemed unable to dream again. It was hard for me to comprehend. I heard things like "Why should we bother to have any dreams, they're not going to come true anyway" and "My mom says it's stupid of me to think I can be anything better than this and makes fun of me when I say I want to go to college." and "My family says Who am I to want to be better than them". Now I thought the object of parenting was to always want the best for your child and to put all your efforts into insuring that your child has it "better" than you!?
A 14 year-old just recently told me that I was the very first person who had ever told her that she was precious, loved and that she mattered. I don't want another day to go by that a child in my community thinks that they don't matter! That is why I have created APEXC Community Advancement, Inc. We were getting the center started in the small town I lived, when the terrible storms of 2005 hit Louisiana, Katrina and Rita. This put plans on hold, but also allowed us the opportunity to move to New Orleans, where the need is greatest. We are now full-steam ahead on creating The APEX Youth Center.
Please help us reach our goal - Let every child feel they matter!