I have been lucky enough to be accepted to this program and placed at the Esperanza Academy in Lawrence to be a full time teacher, coach, advisor, mentor, support system, and most importantly, friend. In other words, I have essentially adopted 60 new daughters. I use that metaphor because in the few short months that I’ve been here, they have already lodged themselves right into one of the most sincere parts of my heart. I always joke now that these girls have “softened” me up. Before this experience, you wouldn’t catch me willingly hugging even my closest friends. Now, I look forward to the mornings where I’m greeted by brace-filled middle school smiles and hugs so tight that they make you lose your breath a little.
In light of this post being around Valentine’s Day, it only makes sense that I reflect on the ways these students and this program have softened my heart and my edges. I realized early on that this experience and these girls would have the biggest impact on my life to date, and I was correct. From watching a student finally make the connection on a problem she really struggled with, to wiping her tears when she comes in sad about a fight with a family member, all the way to laughing so loud and so hard with her that I don’t know if I’ll ever catch my breath again. Every bit of this program has been worth it. These girls give me hope for future generations of women. I think about how much I struggled with bullies when I was their age, and it feels so foreign. The kindness I see in my students’ hearts every day is enough to light up my own. I recently started an Act of Kindness club at the school, and the members of my club could not have been more enthusiastic to spread kindness to their peers. They were overflowing with ideas within the school, and they used two whole white boards to brainstorm. The girls at this school will be our future leaders. They will raise the future generations. They will run for office, make medical discoveries, teach their own students, design buildings, create murals, and so much more. And I am wholly confident that they will change the world.
Outsiders can’t wait to tell me how much of a difference I am making in their lives as their teacher, but all I ever think about is the massive difference they’ve made in mine. I am a softer, kinder, more patient person, having met these wonderful girls. I can laugh at the little things, and bounce back when the schedule flips. I can adjust to the changing tides, and make it work at my own pace. I forgive myself for my mistakes, and forgive them for theirs. I understand that some days will be hard, and that we will work through them together. But I am willing and excited to do all of this, because these girls are worth it, and these girls are going to change the world.