The department at my University requires a 120 hour internship before graduating from the Child Development and Family Relations major. I wanted the chance to spend my time somewhere I could gain skills and all that I have to offer would be needed.
The first day I came to The Life Center I was a blank slate with little understanding of what would happen that day. I soon realized that this program provided food, tutoring, and a reading program daily and found many confirmations throughout the day that I was in the right place.
It must have been either the second or third day there when I was monitoring the computer lab; a six year old shared with the kids in the lab about a bullet that went through the front door of her home and into her neighbor’s home.
I began to reflect on my own childhood which was filled with struggles. I took for granted that in spite of the strain, I was carefully sheltered from the dangers of the outside world. In fact, completely unaware such evils existed.
In spite of their exposure, I didn’t feel for a second their childhoods were being robbed. Instead they had to face the harsh realities of this world much sooner than the average American. Instead of it being on their TV screen, or in a harsh rap lyric, it was their reality.
No longer did I view the program through the lens of someone going to help kids with their homework and reading. Instead as a woman and friend who had a message of hope, “It gets easier when you grow up. Life gets better the longer you live it if you make good choices.”
It became clear that the time spent at the center and the quality of the program was EXACTLY what it was going to take to not lose these kid’s to the street life that was tempting them. “You know one day you’re going to have your dream job, dream house, dream love, and family. But you have to do your homework today before that time can come. That’s a long time from now, in another part of your life.”
The message was that it will definitely come but you must focus now.
Sometimes the softer moments require a different kind of encouragement.
“You know how pretty you are?”
“No” a response with a sad face that has clearly heard dark and painful words aimed at her.
“You are. You are very pretty to me. I think you’re a smart and pretty girl who can do better than run around the room. Instead I see a sweet girl turning into a lady.”
Sometimes I compare my previous experiences working with children at a private Preschool program where the kids were given every resource and esteem building tools they’d need to be successful. Isn’t it so different at The Life Center? I’ve thought.
At the private Preschool all the kids could recognize their ABC’s by the age of four. At The Life Center I was blown away that children were entering Kindergarten without letter recognition and the Early Childhood Teacher in me began to panic. I’ve got to find a way to make this easy for them; they needed to know their ABC’s months ago.
Through discussion boards on Blackboard I get to read about the other student’s experiences on their internships and post about mine. I feel a little bad for the ones who are just sitting at a desk doing paperwork and greeting clients. I’ve gotten much more out of mine. In fact I’ve gotten:
- 20-30 New Friends
- A chance to use my underutilized heart
- Brush up on my basic math & algebra skills
- Listened to some pretty cool children’s & teens books being read
- Relive Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade but with wisdom to share
- Brush up on all the new artists like Baby Kaely
- Learn how to “Hit the Quan”. Kind of.
- Prepare for my own kids
- Help with school projects & make them cooler than the ones I did in the 90’s
- Plus, I got to brush up on some writing and site building skills
Anyway, I’m 70 hours into my internship with The Life Center and should be finishing up my time at the end of October 2015. I don’t know what my life is going to be like after graduation but I’m certain I will be doing everything I can to secure employment or maintain my career. I am also certain that The Life Center and the people who are in it have won my heart. There have been rough moments but I always tell them “there’s nothing you can do to make me not love you.” and I will be going back to see the kids and give them my time even after hour 120.