A couple of weeks ago, the first group of students kicked off the spring Riverside activities. Days have been incredibly full the past few weeks since then, and I am slow on the follow up, but these women deserve their time in the spotlight.
What you see here is pretty much what I see three times a week in class--women who are embracing opportunities to be the difference they want to see in the world, to borrow from Gandhi's philosophy. Can you imagine what it is like to stand before a class of students and see these faces--generally with these smiles on them--learning to be social workers?
The work in Riverside is our "vehicle" to allow the students to practice working in a group, and learning group dynamics and stages of development. It's also service to the community, so the process benefits us and them. What never ceases to amaze me is that even though it is a vehicle for learning for the students, I always learn right along with them, and see new sides of them. When I see a student who may be quiet and reserved in the classroom step up and out of that persona and engage with the children, it is always such a joy to me. It is like a glimpse into the future and seeing a little bit along the continuum of development in each of us: life-long learning.
Along with nurturing the minds, hearts, and bodies of the children, these young women encouraged physical activity, sharing, and just pure play. Although it is not a problem with these kids, childhood obesity is a major problem in Mississippi, and leads to a life of chronic illness for many of them.
I was amazed a few years ago when we first introduced bowling with Perrier bottles how much the kids got into such a simple activity. It's a good reminder that a little creativity can reap big benefits, and we don't always have to have fancy electronic gadgets.
The group combined art with reading. It was a great way to engage the children in reading and language development, critical thinking, and because they were "playing" at the same time, it was more fun for them.
And, as always, a little homework help was appreciated by the kids who had work due. Even though we are not there as much as we used to be, when the kids see us, they arrive with backpacks and homework folders in hand and take advantage of the chance for tutoring. The truth is most of them don't need any help, but they enjoy the opportunity to interact one-on-one with someone who is focused on them for those minutes.
We'll be going back into the community during the next couple of weeks, and then this group of students will go into internship for the summer and the final aspect of their education process. It's always good to send them out there, knowing the quality of work they can do, and that in a short while, they will be in agencies and communities, putting those skills to good use.
Way to go, Brown Eyed Ladies! It's been an honor.