Today’s blog post comes from Elizabeth Mejia, executive director of Communities In Schools of Miami and author of Life From The Stoop, an affirming memoir of faith, perseverance and hope. To order your copy, visit www.createspace.com/3825238.
“The drama that Miguel brought into our house was endless nights of fights and police visits. One night, one of the police officers noticed me. He saw me trying to keep it together, being the family spokesperson, being responsible. He pulled me to the side, and he said ‘You know, life does not have to be this way.’” Wow – that was a powerful statement. Violence and chaos were all that I knew. It surrounded my whole life and the life of everyone around me. Long after he left, those words entered my soul and fed a fire in me.”
This excerpt from my memoir, Life From the Stoop, provides a strong argument as to why the work of Communities In Schools and other stay-in-school organizations is so important. The words from this police officer had a transformative impact on my life. They planted the seed in me to break the cycle of violence and poverty that had plagued my family. There’s a great likelihood that the officer left my house, frustrated or even disgusted, feeling like he was wasting his time on another domestic violence call. Even today, he has no idea what he accomplished by taking a few moments to personally connect with a frightened, confused 12-year-old girl.
That moment of connection, that personal touch illustrates one of Communities In Schools’ basic tenets: It is relationships, not programs, that change children. This is why Communities In Schools brings caring adults into students’ lives. You never know who will be the one to make a difference, to deliver a message of hope just at the perfect time that a student needs to hear it. We believe in bringing concerned and dedicated adults into the schools to surround our students with a community of support. These volunteers, staff and mentors may repeat the same words of encouragement a parent says at home, but there’s a chance the child might hear the message differently, and for the first time embrace it. Or maybe it’s the first time the child ever hears such affirmations.
We can never give up, get discouraged or minimize the value of our work. We must deliver our services with faith that they will make a difference, even if we do not get the opportunity to witness it. It may take years and we may never hear a thank you, but we continue, believing that our work – delivered with love, understanding and compassion – is helping young people transform their lives. We must build relationships based on the principle that every child needs and deserves a caring adult in his or her life.
The police officer referenced in my book is just one person – what I believe to be an angel in my life – out of many who helped me persevere, go on to college and escape the projects. We hear it constantly, and I cannot stress the truth behind the words, but education is truly the key that breaks the cycle of poverty. As my memoir recounts, education opened a whole new world not only for me but for the subsequent generations in my family. Once the first person graduated college, a whole new generation followed.
Communities In Schools is that key for many students, their families and future generations. We must remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure that every child graduates, and continue to be a supportive angel in their lives.