By Maria Corse
DRC is an innovative educational facility – which is exactly how we describe ourselves to the world. However, when I think about everything we do on any given day, that doesn’t even begin to illustrate a fraction of the actual work we are all engaged in. Relationship building is a far more accurate description, and, I contend, is the most important work we can possibly do as an educational community. If we don’t take the time to create those basic human connections, the amount of knowledge these kids may cram into their heads is beside the point and (I will argue) absolutely useless.
Every year, around this time, I write a few full-length profiles of individual DRC students (read last year's here, here, here, and here ). I would not be able to write those spotlights, if I did not have the extreme privilege of time to build relationships - through daily interactions and weekly mentoring sessions with every single kid at the center. Last year, I really wanted to profile a teen who had joined us that September, but, no matter what I did, I could not capture her essence. Even though I thought I did, I simply didn’t know her well enough, after two months, to write about her. That is no longer the case. Yesterday, the words practically poured from my brain through my fingertips and onto the screen. Over the past year, she and I have developed an affinity that goes beyond the normal teacher/student association. She feels comfortable talking to me about her anxieties and concerns, as well as her dreams and aspirations. She calls me her “not” mom. We have the luxury of being close without the hassle of familial ties. I can offer her suggestions and critiques and she doesn’t (won’t) take offense like she does with her “real” mom.
The absolute beauty of Deep Root Center, is that I am able to develop that closeness with every single kid here. It is fluid and easy. I am everyone’s “not” mom. They know that I trust them to make good decisions and to be their best selves. They each understand completely that I will always be available to listen, offer suggestions and help problem solve, if that is what they want, and I will advocate for them, no matter what. With that being said, they also know, and trust, that I, or one of the other community members, will call them out when they are being “poops.” Because, we all understand that mistakes and errors in judgment are part of the learning process.
See, we have time and space to do that. I have no rules or regulations to enforce, or, for that matter, agenda (or, curriculum) to follow. DRC is a safe place, where they are free to be themselves – to express emotion and to explore their interests and aspirations, wherever they may lead. We can be playful and silly or deadly serious.
In the end, we all comprehend that authenticity and honesty are the essential components in creating those fundamental links between individuals, as well as the entire community. And, in the process, we are growing compassionate and caring young people who are able to go into the world to build relationships based on respect and genuine kindness.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
There may or may not be a blog posted next week, depending on whether I am feeling inspired enough to write, while on the 13+ hour, overnight return train from Chicago, where I am, happily, spending the Holiday with my husband and both of our adult “kids”. I am looking forward to being together. It doesn’t happen often, now that they are grown and gone.
T'is the Season for giving.
Consider honoring a loved one with a donation to Deep Root Center.