Monday, August 19, 2013

Happy New (School) Year

Below is a short blog I wrote for the 2nd Mile blog. In this space, I've got a couple quick, more personal reflections on this day. It's a unique one.

Over the past three years, I've spent more time the activity of developing an after school program than any other (save sleeping) by a longshot. In 2010, I read book after book about programs, classroom management, and on and on. I visited other programs and asked hundreds of questions. I developed a very strong picture in my mind of what I was shooting for (and what I wasn't).

In 2011, I sketched out core values and non-negotiables for the program. I gave it a name and a mission statement. And it's a mission that I still draw upon daily and think about, the dream of seeing kids grow up as disciples of Christ who live the truth of the Gospel, learn as scholars, and lead their community forward. That summer, I called parents and got hung up on more than once, but ultimately we launched two:fiftytwo that fall with ten kids. And everyone lived!

Over the next two years, I rose and fell with the program. Kids came. Kids left. More kids came. They left. They came back. It was my baby. It was my responsibility, it kept me up at night. I realized these kids had a power over me. They said things like, "Whatever, you don't care about me," and it was just about the most hurtful thing anyone could ever say. I also realized that if they said, "Hey!" with excitement, it made my day.

So, today I have a lot of mixed feelings as school starts and I am not in charge of the two:fiftytwo program. This summer I transitioned to a new role and while I'm excited about the position change and confident in the future and direction of two:fiftytwo, I found it difficult to stay seated in my chair this afternoon when the van pulled up and the kids walked in. It was hard to just say hello and let them all go about their day. It was hard to know that I'll still be in this space tomorrow. 

New days, new years, new feelings. I'll get by.


Today, thousands of students across Jacksonville began school.

A new year. This means new outfits, new backpacks, and new pictures of kids standing at the front door being forced to smile.
It also means a new year of the two:fiftytwo After School Program. In fact, this is now the third year of the program and with that comes a sense of normalcy. No longer are we "figuring stuff out", but the stuff is pretty much set. Adding to the excitement some of our students are now in their third year with the program (and some of them have "graduated" up to CONNECT Middle School). So for these students too, two:fiftytwo comes with a sense of normalcy.
This summer when two of our students moved seven blocks from their old house they ran up to me one day very concerned, "Can we still go to two:fiftytwo!?!" I've also been told that these same girls assign each other the roles of our staff and play two:fiftytwo on the weekends.
It's exciting to continue on in these relationships and in the goal of seeing students follow a pathway all the way from five years old through adulthood where they live the truth of the Gospel, learn as scholars, and lead their community forward.
I say this approximately 20 times a week. but, the best leaders for Brentwood are already in Brentwood, the people who will change Brentwood are already in Brentwood, and the people who will best be able to share Jesus with Brentwood are already in Brentwood. This is why two:fiftytwo is so important. It is twenty-two plus hours per week with these future leaders from and for the neighborhood.
It's a big goal and a long process. It's complex and requires depth of investment. But it is the way to go. For students to become who God made them to be will require embracing the length and complexity. It requires an approach that knows there is an academic element, a social element, a spiritual element, and more. But, yes, it is the way to go. School's back!
If you are interested in helping out with two:fiftytwo, we have volunteer orientations at various times throughout the year. We are also always collecting supplies (paper towels, school supplies, toilet paper, cleaning products, snacks). Contact for details.