Deep Root Center is founded on the belief that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel like they are part of a community. And where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are secure, accepted, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
When this mission statement was first articulated, I didn't quite realize how antithetical it is to what most of our kids experience in their school life.
I talk to dozens of young people and their families every year. The piece consistent across the board is the trauma these kids have experienced in school. In most cases, it is because the authorities in the school environment are not given enough freedom within the structure of the overarching curriculum and rules to be flexible and understand that one size does not fit all. Kids are not standardized, and neither should their educational experience.
Now - why I cried (again) this week.
As mentioned, I speak to a ton of kids every year. I write all of the NYS-required documentation for kids who come to the Centers and for those whom I consult with. To do that, I need to have an in-depth conversation with each child. For everyone who does not come to the Canton center, they are via phone call.
This past Tuesday afternoon, I was curled up in my cozy chair at home talking to a very cool and sweet 12-year-old who was joining our DRC East crew. His mother had explained earlier that he had recently been diagnosed with low-needs autism and had fairly severe anxiety and depression. This year he was punished with in-school suspension - and expulsion, too many times to count. The school authorities did not know how to interact with him (within their framework) and ended up escalating every interaction to the point where he was overwhelmed, frustrated, and became "violent."
This kid was extremely articulate - he knew what he wanted to explore for each subject. He was engaged and super happy to be switching to DRC. The conversation was natural and free-flowing and went longer than most. As I was winding things up, I asked, per usual, "is there anything else I should add to your plan?"
Que the heartbreak... he whispered, "can you put in there that I just want to make friends?"
I mean, &*#@, how do I respond to that question? Through the ginormous lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face, I barely spit out - "oh, buddy, I don't think you are going to have to look very hard to find friends at DRC. The kids are really going to like you."
For some reason this kid really got to me. The remainder of the week emotions lurked just below the surface. On Friday, I sat in the office with another teen in personal crisis - that extended conversation ended with a mutually needed long hug and more tears.
The DRC mission is lived every single day in every single way. Most importantly, our kiddos quickly comprehend that they are each a valuable and unique component of the whole. Their differences are what make the community strong, and together, they are pure awesomeness.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC True-Story - fifth in the series
A few weeks ago we instituted a "tip jar" in the "chill space." Kids can add suggestions and ideas, at any time, and when I see a note inside the jar, I pull it out and read it to the group during our daily morning check-in. The quote from today's DRC True Story was inside the tip jar on Tuesday. The 11 year old who put it in volunteered a story about a time in her life when she felt that way every day. From there a five minute conversation ensued - with several of us adding tidbits of our own experiences.
I hope her willingness to share something so real, raw, and poignant with the group will instigate more philosophical questions inside the tip jar that get us all thinking and connecting on a deeper level.
It was a happening week at both Centers this past week.
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