On Friday, my coworkers and I spent all day at Trinity HS in Garfield Hts talking to classrooms full of students. I, being all about processing (SH2 shoutout!), LOVE leading groups of peers in discussions about community service. We usually talk really briefly about what UGIVE.org is, how it was started, why WE volunteer, and then launch into a conversation of why THEY volunteer (or, for schools like Trinity where 80 hours of service are required to graduate, why they think their school has them volunteer).
I’ve been working with high school students both through work and in volunteering for Leadership Lorain County’s Women’s Lunchbox Series, and it is increasingly alarming to me that the students with whom I interact are a) hyper-aware of heavy issues on all levels that they will not have to directly face for up to half a century from now, and b) able to list FAR more problems or concerns than dreams and optimism for their futures and their communities. The Trinity juniors we had 2nd period were fairly reserved when asked why they serve/are expected to serve, but as soon as I asked them what’s wrong with Cleveland/NE Ohio/their neighborhoods, their sentiments were inexhaustible. Mumbles of everything from housing woes to homelessness to a skyline they can’t be proud of to money uncertainties to failed sports teams to human trafficking filled the classroom to a point where we actually had to call for their attention and quiet again.
I asked why they thought I posed that question to them, and then I directed their attention to a bumper sticker their teacher had put on his podium at the front of the room; those familiar with social movements and liberation theology probably know the slogan “If you want peace, work for justice” very well. It is our goal as Cleveland UGIVE VISTAs to show students that, yes, there is so much brokenness and despair in Cleveland (and, frankly, everywhere these days), but there is also a lot of passion and energy inside of THEM that can change those things.
One student looked at me and said, “Human trafficking?! What can WE do about huge issues like that?” and rattled off reasons they (17-year-olds) couldn’t possibly do anything addressing that issue. It sparked an intense “a-ha” moment with the class as they realized the Romero/Hellen Keller idea that it’s precisely BECAUSE we cannot do everything that we are able to do something no one else can do as well as we can.
It resurfaced into my mind of one of my favorite movie moments ever, something that I used at several school talks in the fall. It’s from the start of Pay it Forward where the 7th grade students get their assignment to change the world. I am always so inspired by watching it, and I hope you will be too.
I really, truly, honestly love my job and the catalyzing that comes with it.
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something, and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something I can do. –Helen Keller
To see the KICK-BUTT inspirational video that Trinity introduced to US, click here. We were teary-eyed and goosebump-clad both times we watched it!