Goodbyes and farewells are never easy. They are not meant to be but they are necessary. They are necessary in how we make decisions. They are necessary for life changes. But they don’t mean the end. As a young person, I had a hard time understanding and coping with goodbyes and farewells. I cried far too often and took it out on myself when people left or made decisions that felt like they were leaving me. As a young person, I didn’t have a place like AALEAD or even know what it meant to be part of something that resembled family without having to share the same blood line or last name.
Now, as I say farewell to AALEAD officially as the DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator, I see how necessary changes and growth are. I have witnessed how the DC youth have grown in the year that I have known and worked with them. The daily grind during afterschool programs at two sites and the six hour days, four days a week during summer programs… They all have mattered. All of the important memories from our field trips or just times when the youth would stay after programs to spend time with each other. There were even moments of getting random facebook messages or texts from the youth just because they wanted to check in with me. Even during the hard times when a youth can just let go of their emotions with me because life can be so incredibly challenging. The trust that’s been shared is beyond words especially in the given amount of time we had together.
To the young people of AALEAD DC programs, this is not the end. You and I, we are growing and changing together even still as I embark in a new chapter as the Co-Director of the Washington Peace Center. More than anything, your stories, your honesty and your realness made me realize even more how much I should work and fight for the issues impacting you and your families. There is injustice that seems to seep into this soil, the same soil that you have planted your roots in. This city belongs to you and your families. Don’t ever forget that. Together, I strongly believe this city, the one that has brought us together, will continue to be your home, the home that you envision for yourself for years to come. Let’s keep flipping the script, blazing a new trail, and turning the tides. “Don’t be nice, be.….!”
To the staff, mentors, volunteers, and community partners at AALEAD, what we do makes a difference and changes lives. Together, we are sending a strong message that a young person’s or individual’s identity are impacted by structures and institutions. We are creating and continue to create safe spaces for identities to thrive.