I walked out onto the playground and immediately sensed something was wrong. Stacey* was hanging from the monkey bars with a nervous face while Kinsley* was shuffling her feet through the bark chips, her eyes searching the ground.
“Hey Kinsley, how’s it going?” I asked trying to discern what type of problem we were dealing with.
“Well, Stacey told Mary* that Mary is better friends with me than she is with her.” She said matter-of-factly. That’s when I saw her. Mary was up on the play structure, curled up in a ball face in her hands sobbing uncontrollably.
,At RISE After School, moments like this are a dime a dozen and moments like this are one of the ways that we build strong young lives at SouthSide Youth Outreach. What happens when a situation like this arises? Does it get ignored? Are people’s feelings disregarded or acknowledged? Is anyone even aware of the situation to begin with? At RISE we maintain a low staff to student ratio so that we can not only build strong relationships with the students in our care but so that we can also keep an eye out for moments like this and address them immediately.
I climbed the stairs of the play structure and got down on the same level as Mary, “can you tell me what happened?”
Mary shared with me exactly what Stacey had said to her, and how she had been hurt by her friends’ words. I asked her to come down from the play structure so that she could talk with Stacey about what had happened.
When I got them together Mary shared openly with Stacey how she felt and how what Stacey had said hurt her feelings. After listening intently, Stacey apologized for what she had said. In an instant the sadness was gone, and the two girls were smiling and laughing together on the playground as if nothing had happened.
Reconciling relationships is a hard skill to learn. Asking forgiveness and willingly offering forgiveness is hard even for the most mature adults. These two girls are learning how to voice their feelings and needs to resolve conflicts with one another at the ripe old age of 5 years old, and they’re not the only ones. At RISE After School we place a strong emphasis not only on academics but also character development.
This is only one of many examples of how your support is working to guide youth in our programs, not only in how to resolve conflicts, but how to live as respectful, responsible, and caring humans in a world that is increasingly becoming more hostile. The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and together we can serve the families in our community and partner with them in raising children who are strong, honest, and courageous leaders in the future. Thank you for partnering with us in building strong, young lives so our community will thrive.
* all student names have been changed for privacy