We do not choose to be born.
We do not choose our parents,
Or our times or country of birth,
Or the circumstances of our upbringing.
We do not—most of us—choose to die
But within all this realm of choicelessness
We do choose how we shall live—
Courageously or in cowardice,
Honorably or dishonorably,
With purpose or adrift.
We decide what is important and what is trivial
What makes us significant is what we do,
Or refuse to do.
We decide and we choose
And so we give definition to ourselves.
By Joseph Epstein
Within my two years of service I've had the opportunity to participate in a multitude of projects, volunteering, tutoring, mentoring, or assisting with community events. Though each year has brought an array of different responsibilities, friendships, and goals, overall I have accomplished the same task of providing a positive impact on students today to help them become leaders of tomorrow.
The poem above highlights the importance of taking ownership over the choices we make and the opportunities that come our way. This year I had the opportunity to educated three young ladies on this philosophy. We started an After School Program at Price Middle School aimed to help eighth grades find themselves, accept the person they find, but most importantly love the person they are. The program focused on character development, self love, enrichment on womanly issues, and preparation for the next step which is high school. The program was offered to ten eighth grade young ladies who exemplified a need for mentorship, a push for excellence, and a desire to do better. Even though only three students showed the first day and faithfully continue to come, we couldn't have asked for a better group.
With the help of a friend, Black Positive Image, and their "You Don't Know My Story" campaign, we branded the program by the same title. The campaign focuses on recognizing that everyone has a story worth telling, that we are never alone in our battles in life. Essentially what are our struggles can be a learning lesson for the next person. We extended this campaign to the fellow woman to share their story to compile for the ladies in After School.
Our first activity included making "I AM" journals. This is a collage of things, images, words, and colors that describe who you are and thus becomes a cover for a composition notebook. The ladies were given thought provoking, inspiration, or tough topics to write about every day. In addition to the various writing assignments, we bought each girl a copy of Run Away Girl by Ayanna Molina. Run Away Girl describes the trials and tribulations while being led astray by lack of self confidence and the desire to chase love in the wrong places. We had the pleasure of having the author visit with the girls as they asked her grueling questions about her story. The culminating piece this year will be our end of the year celebration. On this day we will be presenting the ladies with the book that we made, a book bag stuffed with things to carry them on through journey to womanhood, and most importantly a day to celebrate their growth.
Joseph Epstein said "Within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we shall live." It is critical that we all realize the power of now. I hope through this year my student have realized they are in control of their present and ultimately their future. The circumstances of their past can only determine how they make conscious decision in the future and with healthy support they can achieve anything they desire. My service legacy has been planting this seed in their hearts and this conviction in their minds.